NIU golf to host NCAA tournaments in May


Northern Star file photo

Rich Harvest Farms, 2330 Granart Road in Sugar Grove is home to NIU golf.

By Tom Burton

This will be a unique season for women and men’s golf, as they have the opportunity to host the Division I National Championships at Rich Harvest Farms, 2330 Granart Road in Sugar Grove.

Both teams are in the beginning stages of their respective fall seasons. Most recently, women’s golf is coming off their runner-up finish at the Redbird Invitational in Normal.

Everyone around the NIU golf organization has this event circled on their calendars, with women’s head coach Kim Kester calling it “awesome for the university and the community.”

“It is the single biggest thing that has happened in my coaching career,” Men’s Head Coach Tom Porten said. “To be able to tell the world of college golf that our home [golf course], Rich Harvest Farms, is going to host this national championship is an incredible opportunity for our program and our university.”

Both men’s and women’s national tournaments will be televised for two weeks by the golf channel and the NCAA. The opportunity to host this nationally-televised event is great publicity for the NIU golf program but also for the university as a whole.

“To be on the golf channel for two weeks is huge for this university and for this area,” Kester said. “To be able to spotlight what we have to offer to everybody is definitely a special thing.”

As both teams have begun their fall season, including a second-place finish by the the women’s team at the Redbird Invitational in Normal last weekend, the members of the coaching staff noted a goal for the teams’ seasons is to qualify for this event.

The organization believes NIU has a chance to have some of their own players represent the school in this national event.

“It’s really exciting and I hope the team can make it,” men’s senior golfer Joo-Young Lee said. That would be fun. It will be cool to see [the tournament] on our home course and I think Rich Harvest will be a great challenge for the players.”

Rich Harvest Farms opened in 1999 and is founded and owned by Jerry Rich. Rich constructed the golf course based on several designs, including Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, which is often referred to by golfers as the nicest course on the planet, according to the golf courses website.

Rich Harvest Farms has been honored, consistently named one of Rolex’s “World’s Top 1,000 Golf Courses” and Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses,” according to the courses website.

“We’re going to bring the NCAA Championships to a whole new level which the NCAA has never seen before,” Rich said. “To be able to host such a championship on our golf course as an Alumni of NIU, it doesn’t get much better than that as far as I’m concerned.”

Rich said he believes the school’s home course being Rich Harvest Farms, along with the privilege of hosting this event may lead to recruiting more players to play golf at NIU.

“I would say that the Northern schools may have a difficult time trying to recruit great players,” Rich said. “All of the great players want to go to Southern schools where they can play 12 months out of the year.”

The nationally televised event is set to be broadcast on the Golf Channel and will be held May 19 to 24 for the women and May 26 to 31 for the men.