LPGA officials must know every manicured inch of Rich Harvest Farms by now. After all their time spent at the Sugar Grove golf course in advance of last year’s Solheim Cup, several returned this month to discuss the premise of returning annually.
Estate owner Jerry Rich emerged from the meetings mum on possible title sponsors but brimming with optimism that something would be in place by 2012.
“I never thought I’d ever host a yearly event,” Rich said, “but after working with the LPGA for about 4 1/2 years and seeing all the close relationships and how it helps everybody, we kind of decided that Chicago needs to bring it back.”
Hosting some kind of return engagement crossed Rich’s mind shortly after the last of the 120,000 Solheim fans filed out of his course last August.
The international event brought overnight renown to Rich Harvest Farms, inspiring Rich to hire away two LPGA marketing whizzes to start work on luring a permanent event.
The scope of what’s coming remains in the idea phase, with Rich favoring a format that combines professionals and amateurs and a date conducive to drawing young fans without keeping them from homework.
Realizing he has allies in the LPGA and new commissioner Michael Whan – who grew up in Naperville – eases all the downtime Rich knows is coming.
“The economy is kind of putting a break on everything right now,” he said. “A lot of people are favoring waiting and seeing.”
In the interim, Rich had plenty on his plate already before pledging Wednesday to start dusting off those clubs again.
He and a committee from Northern Illinois expect to learn by month’s end whether the NCAA has accepted their bid for Rich Harvest to host the men’s Division I national championships in 2012 or 2013.
Next week, a contingent of panelists from Golf Digest magazine is set to visit to play and survey the course for its upcoming 2011-12 Top 100 issue.
Rich Harvest ranked as the 46th best course nationally in the most recent edition, for 2009-10.
When the scribes arrive, they’ll find six newly surfaced greens. Rich is unsure whether he’ll place pins on them before member play opens on June 28.
He didn’t have to show anyone from the LPGA around, a trend that figures to be solid for years to come.
“That was very important when we were talking and negotiating through everything,” Rich said. “When we bring the Tour back, we want it to be for a long, long time.”
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for Shaw Suburban Media. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or