Beyond the Fairway: Jerry Rich, '61, Inspires and Supports Student-Athletes
By Lia Kizilbash Gillet

mr.-rich-photo---compressedJerry Rich, '61, owner of Rich Harvest Farms

At ten years old, Jerry Rich, ’61, heard you could make money as a golf caddy. Curious, he jumped on his bike and pedaled over to the local golf course, where a stranger took a chance on him that changed his life forever. 

“The man could have easily dismissed me, told me ‘Get out of here, kid,’ but instead gave me a pull cart and a chance to learn the game,” said Rich. “That day, I made $1.10 in tip money, but more importantly, I fell in love with golf, fueling a life-long passion for the sport.”

Today, Rich is the owner, and architect of, a private and prestigious golf course, Rich Harvest Farms. Consistently ranked in Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses,” Rich Harvest Farms has hosted over 50 amateur, collegiate, and professional tournaments over the past 20 years.

Since that fateful day, Rich tries to give others the same opportunity — or a chance — that he was given as a young caddie.

Rich founded the Kids Golf Foundation of Illinois which offers and supports golf programs and events giving children ages 5-17 the chance to learn the sport. Through its programs, the Foundation has helped more than 350,000 children learn golf fundamentals, etiquette and life lessons.

Reaching youth of all ages, NIU Huskies men’s and women’s golf teams, along with collegiate golfers from Aurora University, are welcomed by Rich to use Rich Harvest Farms as their home course. 

"Mr. Rich has been an absolute blessing," said Ben Sluzas, a junior on the NIU men's golf team. "For him to give us the opportunity to practice and play at his facility has greatly benefited the program. We would not be where we are today without him. Mr. Rich has been a longtime supporter of NIU Athletics and is a prime example of someone who is determined to succeed. As student-athletes, we seek out to follow in his footsteps by working hard to create our own success."

Impressed by both the men's and women's NIU golf teams, Rich takes pride in knowing his facilities play a small part in their growth and success. He was especially proud of the NIU men's golf team when they captured the 2023 Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship, their first since calling Rich Harvest Farms "home." Equally impressed by the NIU women’s golf team, Rich recalls watching Jasmine Ly honing her craft on his course and in his indoor practice facility. Ly went on to win NIU's first-ever women’s golf individual championship at the 2022 MAC women’s golf championship.

NIU Women’s Golf Coach, Kim Kester, describes Rich’s impact on NIU golf as “immeasurable.”

“We would not be able to compete at the level we do if we did not have the support from the Rich family," Kester said. "They have provided a world-class experience for our student-athletes with Rich Harvest Farms being the ‘Home of the Huskies.’ Mr. Rich and his partner, Ms. Myrna, are both supporters and friends; they have always been like family to us, and we are beyond grateful.”

Rich inspires NIU student-athletes by sharing stories of how he achieved success through a combination of hard work and passion. His experiences are a testament to the rewards that come from dedication and perseverance.

“My love of golf and support of youth is evident in everything I do,” said Rich. “Golf provides opportunities for both personal growth and career enhancement, and I believe there is no higher calling than setting children, teenagers, and young adults up for success.”

While studying mathematics and earth science at NIU, Rich found his own mentor and inspiration in his graduate course math professor, Dr. John Christiano.

“There were only three of us in the class, so we all grew rather close,” said Rich. “Dr. Christiano didn’t just teach us math  — he taught us about life. He had such a mind for business and understood what it took to be successful. He was a great mentor to me and one I will always remember.”

On Rich’s graduation day he married his late wife, Betty Ann.

“It was a busy day!” said Rich fondly referring to it as his most memorable day at Northern.

Rich left NIU and went to work at his father’s company, Rich Inc. In the 1970s, he created the way Wall Street trading is still done today with the development of the integrated trading terminal. After retiring in 1988, Rich purchased farmland in Sugar Grove, Illinois, and completed the development of Rich Harvest Farms in 1998.

“When I first built Rich Harvest Farms, I envisioned hosting professional tournaments attended by crowds of people,” said Rich. “There were several naysayers out there, but what I’ve learned is that Rich Harvest Farms is unique among golf course venues. It has easy access off I-88, a vast parking lot on property so there is no need for shuttles, and plenty of room to accommodate both crowds and additional amenities.”

Rich also discovered how far-reaching Rich Harvest Farms' economic impact is for the area after hosting the 2009 Solheim Cup, the 2017 NCAA Men's and Women's Golf Championships and the most recent two LIV Golf Chicago Tournaments. From Chicago all the way to Sugar Grove, airports, restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, gas stations, and more all benefit. 

“Events at Rich Harvest Farms really bring the community together,” he said. 

With access to events like these, coupled with playing at Rich Harvest Farms, “collegiate golfers see a bright future achieved through hard work,” said Rich. "They are encouraged to volunteer, learn from the best, and become high-caliber golfers but also, more importantly, high-caliber people.”

NIU, its student-athletes and alumni are grateful to Rich for his commitment to the university, the unforgettable opportunities at Rich Harvest Farms, and the wisdom he shares. He was honored with the F.R. Geigle Service Award from the NIU Alumni Association in 1996 for his outstanding service and commitment to the best interests of the university.

"My commitment to NIU remains stronger than ever," he said. "The golf teams improve year after year, and I am thrilled to see what this year has in store!"

Celebrating his 85th birthday this year, Rich attributes golf to keeping his mind sharp and recommends playing even if you don’t excel at it.

“Golf is an excellent networking tool and is one of the few sports you can play into old age,” he said. “It also teaches you lessons in honesty, integrity, sportsmanship—things you can take with you and apply to other areas of your life.”