Stop when you’ve heard this one before: A billionaire designs and builds a golf course – one he believes to be the greatest, most fantastic, exceptional layout anywhere – and, through money and influence, he gets the tour to bring a prestigious event to his place.
Then the friction starts, not because of players or sponsors but because of the billionaire and his penchant for having things his way.
In this case the owner is not Donald Trump. He’s Jerry Rich, creator of Rich Harvest Farms in the southwestern out-burbs of Chicago, a course Rich himself designed. After Rich hosted the Solheim Cup in 2009, the LPGA agreed to stage the second iteration of the International Crown at Rich Harvest Farms.
Then, out of the blue, the LPGA communications department released this statement on Wednesday:
“The LPGA and Rich Harvest Farms have mutually agreed to relocate the 2016 UL International Crown.
“Despite this decision, both parties remain open to future LPGA opportunities at Rich Harvest Farms based on the successful partnership in staging the 2009 Solheim Cup.
“The UL International Crown will continue as scheduled July 21-24, and the LPGA stands committed to keeping the 2016 edition of the biennial match-play event in the Chicagoland area. The 2018 event will still be showcased in the Republic of Korea.
“The LPGA is finalizing a new host venue and will comment further at the appropriate time.”
No one at the tour would comment further and no one associated with the LPGA would ever say an unkind word about Rich or his staff. But those who have knowledge of the working conditions at the facility and ongoing tensions there say that Rich, who is accustomed to getting his way in all things big and small, came to loggerheads with the tour on several fronts, impasses that made it impossible for the event to proceed.
Calls to Jerry Rich were not immediately returned.
According to the Chicago Tribune, The Merit Club, Medinah, Chicago Highlands and Cog Hill are considered potential replacement hosts for the 2016 event.