Northern Illinois University is to host the 2017 NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Golf Championships at Rich Harvest Farms.
This May, some of the best college golfers and golf teams in the country will compete for a national championship on one of the best golf courses in the world, Rich Harvest Farms. The event is the result of a long-time partnership between Jerry Rich and NIU and a great deal of vision, hard work and planning.
"NIU hasn't had the honor yet to host an NCAA Championship for any sport, so we are thrilled to be a part of this moment in NIU history," Rich says. "It's been a passion of mine to nurture amateur golf, and as an NIU alum, it is even more special that I can offer up my course for this event."
NIU Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics Sean Frazier has served on a number of NCAA committees and knew that Rich Harvest Farms' world-class golf facilities and amenities were exactly what the NCAA was seeking for a championship venue.
"After seeing Rich Harvest Farms and having a conversation with Mr. Rich, I knew our combined efforts to bring the NCAA Championships to NIU would become a reality," says Frazier. "NIU is extremely honored to be the host institution for the 2017 NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Golf Championships at the ‘Home of the Huskies,' Rich Harvest Farms," he adds.
For more than 30 years, the Rich family has supported a variety of endeavors at Northern.
"All he wants to do is help, whether it's hosting an event, building us our own driving range on his beautiful course, or helping our students," says Tom Porten Head Golf Coach at NIU. "I'm honored to help Jerry achieve his vision for the golf program. He had a great experience at NIU and everything he's done since he's retired, he's built close to Northern."
In fact, Rich says he chose Sugar Grove for his golf paradise because it was about halfway between his workplace in Oak Brook and NIU.
Today, the Huskies are proud to call Rich Harvest Farms their home. The golf course, driving ranges, practice facilities, and the indoor golf arena are available to the teams year-round. Another example of Mr. Rich's generosity is in the form of two Mercedes Sprinter vans that both men's and women's golf teams use to commute safely and stylishly to Rich Harvest Farms and golf competitions throughout the Midwest. The vehicles, adorned with NIU and RHF branding, are equipped with wireless internet, individual leather seating and ample storage for team travel.
"Mr. Rich wanted to provide us with a first-class method of transportation so that our student-athletes could travel as a unit from our home to his and beyond," says Porten.
The partnership has also been a boon to the golf program's recruitment. Porten says having access to one of the most exclusive courses in the country has helped him recruit players from France, California, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Florida.
Frazier notes that Mr. Rich's efforts to grow the game of golf and his support of amateur golf is evident by the long list of prestigious events and tournaments held at Rich Harvest Farms. In addition to the NCAA Golf Championships, Rich Harvest Farms has been the site for the 2007 and 2014 NCAA men's regionals; NIU has brought the MAC championship to the course twice, in 2003 and 2012, and the Northern Intercollegiate starting in 2010. The top-rated course has also hosted an annual fundraiser, the Harvest Invitational, bringing in critical funding for NIU golf programs.
"The NCAA Golf Championships are another great example of Mr. Rich's passion for the game, and his love and support of NIU," Frazier adds.
"It's exciting to add the NCAA golf championships to the list of the top national and international events that have been played or are coming to Rich Harvest Farms," says NIU women's golf head coach Kim Kester. "The course is really a hidden gem in the Chicago area, and I'm excited about the opportunity to expose the rest of the country to the course we get to use every day."
The 2017 NCAA Men's and Women's Golf Championships will take place at Rich Harvest Farms in May. The women's championship will be May 19-24, 2017 followed by the men's tournament May 26-31.
Values and Vision
Jerry Rich grew up in a middle-class family, learning the value of hard work from his father, the late Anthony "AJ" Rich.
"I remember growing up, my dad always had me working on projects like painting the house or spading the garden," Rich recalls. "He taught me the importance of getting up early and getting involved, as well as showing me that if you're going to do something, do it right."
After graduating from NIU, Jerry joined his father in business at Rich Inc., providing schools, hospitals, and churches with communication systems. They were among the first to buy the Apple I when it came out in 1974, and quickly learned to use digital signals to control analog devices.
"The same year Bill Gates designed DOS, we designed ROS (Rich Operating System). While Gates pursued personal computing, we pursued applications and device control."
The father-son duo went on to integrate audio, video, and data systems. Soon, Rich says, they were selling multimillion dollar systems to hospitals in major cities across the country.
Eventually, the high-tech communication systems were revolutionizing Wall Street transactions. That venture positioned ROS as the world leader in information retrieval, and that system is still used on Wall Street today.
Building His Own Augusta
When the family sold the company to Reuters, it freed Jerry to focus on another of his life's passion—golf. Around the time of the sale, he made his first visit to Augusta National Golf Club and fell in love with the course. As a mathematician and realist, he had to admit his odds of being admitted to the exclusive club were dismal at best. But the terrible odds didn't discourage him—they gave him an idea.
After Rich purchased farmland in Sugar Grove, Rich Harvest Farms began to take shape. That 1,820-acre showcase of nature and agriculture gave way to one golf hole and a practice area. Then three holes. Then six. After interviewing five architects, Jerry discovered he could draw the plans himself—and did.
Ten years later, all 18 holes of the members-only course were completed. It was rated 5th Best New Private Golf Course by Golf Digest in 1997 and three years later made Golf Digest's "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses," where it remains today.
Rich Harvest Farms is best known to the public as the host of the LPGA's 2009 Solheim Cup. The ultra-private course was also the site of the NCAA men's regionals in 2007 and 2014; the 2015 Palmer Cup; and the 2015 Western Amateur.
The anticipation for the event and gratitude for the Rich Family's contributions are palpable as the NCAA Golf Championships draws near. "The event is another great example of Mr. Rich's passion for the game and his love and support of NIU. We are committed to making it a huge success, not only for the student-athletes competing in the championship, but for NIU as well," Frazier adds.
Learn more information about volunteering and tickets for the NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Golf Championships at Rich Harvest Farms. Plus, create your own legacy at NIU here.