LIV Golf's controversial, Saudi-backed tour comes to Rich Harvest Farms in Kane County

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Friday, September 16, 2022
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The Liv Golf series will be played in the Chicago area at Rich Harvest Farms. It's surrounded by controversy because it's financed by Saudi Arabia.

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. (WLS) -- Rich Harvest Farms golf course in Kane County is hosting a professional golf tournament this weekend.

But it's not the PGA, it's the new LIV Golf Series. It's surrounded by controversy because it's financed by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund.

Some of the big name golfers have already cashed big checks for joining the LIV Golf tour. The big money payouts and the tour's ties to Saudi Arabia and its human rights abuses have made the new series controversial. But there was little talk of that on Thursday.

Golf legend Phil Mickelson was spotted wearing shorts and enjoying the pro-am at the Rich Harvest Golf Club. He's not looking back at his decision to join the tour.

"When you make a decision that you know is right, that you know is in the best interest long-term, it's easy to withstand any criticism," Mickelson said.

This is the first stop in Chicago for the new LIV Golf tour. It has drawn controversy since its inception, including criticism from human rights groups because it's financed by Saudi Arabia.

RELATED | Tiger Woods turned down $700-$800 million offer to join Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, CEO says

The tour has given huge bonuses to a number of top PGA players - and the PGA has banned them in response. But that didn't stop young autograph seekers.

"This the best for him," said Kinzie Farrell, who brought her son to the tournament. "He'll be talking about it all night. For the rest of his life."

Jerry Rich built the private course years ago and was instrumental in bringing the tournament to the Chicago area. It's known as one of the most beautiful - and difficult - courses in the Midwest. Rich said he's not worried about controversy.

"It's all about golf," Rich said. "Chicago is a great golf community and they'll all be out there to watch. With all the other nonsense going on you, just gotta get away from it and enjoy golf."

The tour operates differently than the PGA. The field of players is smaller, they play three days instead of four, and there is no cut. But they play for big money. The pro-am is drawing lots of golf fans anxious to play with the pros, as well as some retired athletes, like Blackhawks center Jeremy Roenick.

"It's great to help promote something maybe not a lot of people like, but people don't understand sports as much as somebody like I do, so it's good to be here," Roenick said.

Starting Friday morning, the field of 48 pros will take over for three rounds. They are set up to accommodate a huge crowd, and tickets are still available.