Rich working to land another big event

Wintering in south Florida allows Jerry Rich ample opportunity to get away from golf and the hours spent meticulously nurturing his Sugar Grove course, Rich Harvest Farms.

He simply chooses not to take advantage. At least not all the time.

Rich continues to network during his seasonal respite from frigid Illinois, working the phones to cultivate a series of projects. He's preparing a proposal to bring the 2012 or 2013 NCAA Division I men's golf national championships to Sugar Grove and wants to lure another international professional golf event to the course.

"We always want to have things going on at Rich Harvest, so why not strike when the iron is hot?" Rich said.

August's Solheim Cup attracted a record 120,000 fans and immediately inspired Rich to keep his LPGA contacts at the top of his Rolodex. He has stayed in close touch with new LPGA commissioner Michael Whan, inviting him to survey the course in a springtime visit.

Whan, who grew up in Naperville, officially took office Monday.

Sites for the biennial Solheim are booked until 2017, but Rich would prefer to bring a permanent tournament in before then. He envisions a women's equivalent to the PGA Presidents Cup, a format featuring the best American golfers against a team from the rest of the world outside of Europe, which already competes against the U.S. in the Solheim Cup.

Rich still wouldn't mind being the Solheim's first repeat host, however, and on Jan. 12 will send son Keith to the White House with the victorious American team to meet President Barack Obama.

Later next week, his proposal to the NCAA is due for the chance to host either the 2012 or 2013 men's national championship. Rich said NCAA officials will notify him of the body's decision in the first week of February. Northern Illinois University – Rich's alma mater – officially would serve as the host school.

"The success we had this past summer didn't hurt our chances, so we'll just have to see," Rich said.

In the meantime, the course itself is snowbound as it awaits maintenance on six greens. Rich said crews have sanded just two of them for seeding, but he's confident everything will be in order by April 1.

Rich and wife Betty are due to fly north then, where the phone calls and planning will only continue.

• Kevin Druley is a Shaw Suburban Media sportswriter. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or kdruley@kcchronicle.com.

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