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Druley: Rich grows the game, course’s reputation

Swedish women’s golfer Anna Nordqvist speaks about last month’s inaugural LPGA International Crown in Maryland. The 32-player, eight-nation event is coming to Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove in 2016.
Swedish women’s golfer Anna Nordqvist speaks about last month’s inaugural LPGA International Crown in Maryland. The 32-player, eight-nation event is coming to Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove in 2016.

Rich Harvest Farms owner Jerry Rich developed the International Crown alongside LPGA officials, so bringing the match-play event to his Sugar Grove course in 2016 came as no surprise.

Welcoming the 2015 Palmer Cup, on the other hand, actually got Rich stirring. When organizers asked about bringing the Ryder Cup-style event pitting top U.S. and European collegians to RHF, he countered with a follow-up question: why?

The answer Rich received gets to the heart of why RHF has been hosting marquee golf tournaments for the past several years.

“They said, ‘Mr. Rich, what you do for junior golf and growing the game, it was a no-brainer by the Palmer. This is where Arnold Palmer wants to bring it, because that’s his charter,’ ” Rich said. “ ‘To be able to teach these university players, the 20 that will be here, that they’ve got to learn to give back.’ That Kids Golf foundation really made it happen.”

Established in 1998, The Kids Golf Foundation of Illinois has reached more than 150,000 youth golfers since its inception. The program, housed on the RHF grounds, strives to introduce children between ages 5 and 17 to golf.

In 2002, Rich commissioned a team from the foundation to Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., site of the LPGA Solheim Cup, a U.S. against Europe match-play event held every two years. He didn’t know much about Solheim then, but knew future Cups were in need of host sites.

Positive feedback from the traveling group prompted Rich to contact then-LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw about drafting a proposal for Rich Harvest Farms’ Solheim bid. In town for an LPGA event in Chicagoland a few weeks later, Votaw visited the grounds for about 2˝ hours.

“I remember bringing him to his car and he rolls down the window. I shook his hand, and he says, ‘Jerry, we’re going to come back,’ “ Rich said. “So that was very exciting. ... I remember the most important thing that I wanted to impress the LPGA with: that we weren’t just a country farm about 45 miles from the city of Chicago in the cornfields of Illinois. That we really knew what we were doing.”

The LPGA agreed, lauding the acumen of Rich and his staff and awarding the course with the 2009 Solheim Cup.

Anna Nordqvist of Sweden, part of the runner-up team at the inaugural International Crown at Maryland’s Caves Valley last month, turned pro a shortly before Solheim 2009 and said her first appearance there “really boosted my career.”

Five years later, the 2016 Crown hopeful Nordqvist still keeps an eye on what’s happening in Sugar Grove.

“I’m very excited to hear what Mr. Rich is doing for the game and how he’s trying to get more young girls to pick up the game,” she said.

Faulhaber’s helping hands: Batavia girls volleyball coach Lori Trippi-Payne writes that recent Batavia graduate Audrey Faulhaber “has really outdone herself this year,” and she’s not referring to anything on the court.

Faulhaber, preparing for her freshman season at St. Olaf (Minn.), continues making an impression on the Athletes Against Hunger campaign by spearheading donation efforts to the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry.

About 35 Batavia High School students, grouped into teams of 2-to-3 members, left bags at Batavia residents’ doorsteps and also set up a table for walk-up donations in front of BHS on July 19. With Faulhaber also reaching out to the Batavia girls soccer and girls tennis teams, the effort produced 2,426 food items, well more than the 1,100-plus donated last year.

A week before the walk-up table at BHS, Faulhaber and a few members of the volleyball program collected $290 in cash donations for the pantry after setting up a table at the Batavia farmer’s market.

Winning tandem: The Cougars reached 70 wins for the season and 125 as a Cubs affiliate Sunday.

With a strong upcoming stretch, they could surpass the Baltimore Orioles (129 wins) and the Kansas City Royals (133) and become the third-winningest affiliation in Cougars history. The Florida Marlins – 723 wins in 10 seasons – and Oakland Athletics – 591 wins in eight seasons – top the list.

• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

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