Junior Golf Foundation benefits from certification process
SUGAR GROVEâ€”The Rich Harvest Farms golf course recently achieved designation as a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, an Audubon International program.
Jeff VerCautren, course superintendent, led the effort to obtain sanctuary status on this course and is being recognized for Environmental Stewardship by Audubon International. Rich Harvest Farms is the 47th course in Illinois and the 753rd in the world to receive the honor.
“Rich Harvest Farms has shown a strong commitment to its environmental program. They are to be commended for their efforts to provide a sanctuary for wildlife on the golf course property,” said Jim Sluiter, Staff Ecologist for the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary programs.
To reach certification, a course must demonstrate that they are maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in a number of areas, Sluiter said.
These categories include: Environmental Planning, Wildlife and Habitat Management, Outreach and Education, Chemical Use Reduction and Safety, Water Conservation, and Water Quality Management.
VerCautren and his staff dedicated a significant amount of time and resources to these areas.
â€œThe knowledge gained by obtaining certification was a great experience,â€ VerCautren said. â€œIt opened my eyes on how to properly manage a golf course and to meet high expectations to be environmentally sound. I would advocate every course go through this process to educate themselves on how to manage their golf course while being environmentally sound.â€
Part of the certification process includes outreach and education. Fortunately for Rich Harvest Farms, housed on their property is one of the largest junior golf organizations in the state. The Kids Golf Foundation of Illinois, established in 1998 by course owner and architect Jerry Rich, makes its administrative home at the course.
â€œOur foundation is fortunate to have benefitted from some of the outreach and education efforts that are part of this certification process,â€ said Holly Alcala, Foundation Director. â€œJeff and his staff have helped to facilitate a number of events and provided resources that have been beneficial to our junior golfers and program sites.â€
That outreach effort included a group of local Girl Scouts who received a tour and educational session from VerCautren, which focused on the importance that nature plays and the environmental stewardship involved in golf. VerCautren also served as a guest speaker at a caddie training session held by the foundation, where he addressed the importance of recycling, taking care of the course and more.
Awards and accolades continue to pile up for Rich Harvest Farms and Jerry Rich. In 2009, the course was thrust into the limelight while hosting the LPGA’s 2009 Solheim Cup. After hosting a major event, one might think to take a step back or slow down. Not for Rich Harvest Farms, the facility and staff are continually moving forward.
â€œOur commitment to the environment and community are a priority at Rich Harvest Farms,â€ said Jerry Rich. â€œThrough the golf course and the Kids Golf Foundation, we are playing our part to ensure the future.â€