If there were ever any doubts about Rich Harvest Farms’ ability to host a big-time golf event, they were erased last month when the NCAA golf championships came to town.
Attendance for the two-week event that featured both the women’s and men’s Division I championships was 16,425 — roughly eight times the attendance for the NCAA championships last year at Eugene Country Club in Oregon, officials said this week.
“We know the numbers would have been even higher if the women had as nice of weather as the men, but we’re still happy with the result,” said Laura Poczatek, communications manager at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove.
The weather was about the only thing that didn’t cooperate in the championship that ran from May 19 to May 31.
When Rich Harvest Farms hosted the Solheim Cup in 2009, there were some concerns about traffic delays and parking. With the addition of a roundabout at Dugan and Granart roads, the very clearly marked and accessible parking and quality personnel to manage traffic, there were no such issues for this event. In fact, the logistics seemed seamless for the 16,000-plus spectators, including more-than-ample concessions stands, courteous volunteers and staffers and a first-rate media center.
Covered by Golf Channel, the event received terrific national media exposure, and Kane County came off splendidly as a place to visit — again, with the possible exception of the cold, rainy weather for a few days of the women’s championships.
That said, some of the top talent in the nation was showcased at the tournament, and that did nothing but enhance Rich Harvest Farms’ reputation as a champion-maker.
When you tune in to the PGA tour in the coming years, look for names like Scottie Scheffler of Texas, who competed for the men’s championship at Rich Harvest Farms and finished 27th in last week’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills, WI. Or Maverick McNeally of Stanford, who also showed well at the U.S. Open. Or Braden Thornberry of Ole Miss, who won the 2017 Haskins trophy — the college golf equivalent of the Heisman Trophy — after the 20-year-old sophomore won the NCAA Championship here in Sugar Grove, IL.
NCAA women’s champion Monica Vaughn of Arizona State was phenomenal, as well, coming from behind to win the individual title in a dramatic finish, birdying two of her final four holes to pass Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s little doubt Vaughn and Kupcho will be formidable if they decide to turn pro.
The NCAA golf tournament also was a feather in the cap of Northern Illinois University, which had the privilege and the pressure of hosting its first-ever NCAA Division I championship.
Tournament Director Vicky McGowan said the event was great exposure for NIU and that the amount of support given by the media as well as the community was outstanding.
What’s next for Rich Harvest Farms?
The course will continue its long-standing tradition of supporting amateur golf, continuing to host the Northern Intercollegiate, Northern Illinois University Huskies men’s and women’s golf teams tournaments in September, and Rich Harvest looks forward to hosting the Western Golf Association’s Western Junior in 2019.
Come 2020, though, the course is open to any tournament opportunity, including hosting the NCAAs again, Poczatek said.
“We are easily accessible via airports, we have top-notch facilities, we are in close proximity to a major metropolitan area that we can draw on for spectators and volunteers, and the people are so incredibly friendly,” she said. “I feel like there is no other combination like that anywhere, and the success for the 2017 NCAA Golf Championships is proof of that.”