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LPGA hopes Solheim showing boosts chances for Tour's return to suburbs
By Mike Spellman | Daily Herald Staff

Suzann Pettersen was the top European player coming into the 2009 Solheim Cup, but she missed too many putts, like this one Friday on the 10th hole, to collect enough points for her team to grab the Cup.

 

Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

Paula Creamer, who celebrated after sinking a putt on the 16th green Friday, remains unbeaten in Solheim singles competition.

 

Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

Rich Harvest Farms, the private course that hosted the 2009 Solheim Cup, drew rave reviews for many of its picturesque and challenging holes such as No. 4, known as the Devil's Elbow.

 

Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

A stronger-than-expected European team, led by Catriona Matthew, proved to be stiff competition for the American team. The Solheim Cup was tied 8-8 entering Sunday's singles play.

 

Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

USA teammates Brittany Lang, left, and Angela Stanford display some of the emotion and camaraderie that makes the Solheim Cup so appealing to golf fans.

 

Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

There also was plenty of great golf on display at the Solheim Cup, such as when Cristie Kerr of Team USA eagled No. 12, prompting a celebration from her caddie, John Killeen.

 

Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

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Published: 8/24/2009 3:59 PM

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When the short-lived Kellogg-Keebler Classic finally puttered out after the 2004 event, it marked the end of women's professional golf in the suburban Chicago area.

That is until last weekend's wildly successful Solheim Cup at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, where more than 120,000 fans appeared to have quite the time watching the United States team go against the top players from Europe in what turned out to be a tighter-than-anticipated battle for the Cup.

"We all knew there were a lot of golf fans in the area, and you combine that with the patriotic atmosphere and the great golf that we saw and it was the recipe for success," said Kelly Hyne, executive director of the 2009 Solheim Cup. "We knew if we put all the pieces together the fans would really love the event.

"It was everything we had hoped for."

The question now is whether the success of the Solheim Cup can translate into a return of the LPGA to the Chicago area on an annual basis?

"I think it's a definite possibility; we're going to chase down every lead and interest that we have," Hyne said Monday. "With the success of the Solheim Cup it's a great springboard for a lot of companies to be able to understand the value that the LPGA has.

"We'll certainly be having more discussions in the coming weeks, and I think eventually it will happen - that's our goal."

Hyne said now that fans here have been introduced to the players and the product, selling an annual tournament to golf fans in the Chicago suburbs shouldn't be too difficult.

"A yearly event helps build a rapport with fans, and having a field of 144 it gives a greater opportunity to see all of the players on the LPGA," she said. "It's a different type of event so you can't really do a direct comparison, but I think people would find the same fan-friendly atmosphere and would only build on what we started here."

Rich Harvest Farms owner Jerry Rich enjoyed the atmosphere and event so much that he said he'd love the chance to host another in the future.

"Once we have a relationship with a site that hosts the Solheim Cup, it's a lifetime relationship," Hyne said. "Certainly if the opportunity presents itself and all things come together, we would love to look at the option for the opportunity to come back.

"For Jerry, it was a realization of a lifelong dream to see his course on the big stage. For us, too, it was really fun to see it become a reality."