With 2010 champion Vince India of Deerfield opting to play in the World University Games in China and Burr Ridge's Bennett Blakeman, co-runner-up a year ago, now a professional, it could be assumed the field in the 81st Illinois Amateur would be down a bit.
That's not the case, though. In fact, the 138-man field that teed off Tuesday in the 72-hole event at Glen Oak Country Club in Glen Ellyn has more variety than usual. For example:
• There are four past champions, headed by Bloomington's Todd Mitchell, who won twice and has never been worse than eighth in nine appearances. Mitchell also won his third Illinois Mid-Amateur title this year by a whopping 13 strokes.
Others who have won past Illinois Ams include: Evanston's Ravi Patel, the youngest-ever champion when he was 18 in 2007; Frankfort's Mark Small, the 1996 titlist who had to survive one of seven statewide qualifying rounds; and Burr Ridge's Mike Mortell, who claimed the crown in1990.
• There'll be a father-son team in Dave and Zac Ryan of Taylorville. Dave is the two-time defending senior player-of-the-year in the Chicago District Golf Assn. Eight father-son combinations tried to qualify for this year's Illinois Am, but only the Ryans made it.
• There'll be a college star in Chicago's Max Scodro, who was medalist in the Big East Conference tournament while helping Notre Dame to the team title.
• Age-wise there's a big gap between the youngest (Joliet's Trent Wallace, 14) and the oldest (Rolling Meadows' Dirk Anderson, 60, the CDGA Senior Amateur champion).
• In the young phenom category there's Doug Ghim of Arlington Heights. He won the Illinois Junior in June and had a first and second in American Junior Golf Assn. events in July. Ghim, 15, was also the youngest-ever qualifier (and youngest to make the cut) at the Illinois Open.
• Even a member of the media, Channel 9 sports anchor Dan Roan, is in the field. He was medalist at the Schaumburg qualifier.
India's successor as champion, though, would likely come from a trio that includes Rockford's Brad Benjamin, the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links titlist and one of three amateurs to survive the cut at this year's U.S. Open; Bloomington's Kyle English, who will try to become the fifth player to win the CDGA Amateur and Illinois Amateur in the same year; and Winnetka's Blake Johnson, who tied for second last year with Blakeman.
An interesting footnote: the field includes six members of Olympia Fields Country Club, eight who designated Cog Hill as their home course, and 11 who reside in Chicago.
The field gets whittled to the low 30 and ties or anyone with 10 strokes of the lead after Wednesday's second round. The champion will be decided in a 36-hole session on Thursday.
Just for seniors
The Illinois PGA has landed Barrington-based MotorWerks as title sponsor of the Illinois Senior Open for the next three years. This year's staging is Sept. 12-13 at McHenry Country Club.
This season's senior competition has been the Jim Sobb show so far. The Ivanhoe pro swept the IPGA's senior and open match play tourneys in the spring and was a seven-shot winner of the IPGA Senior Championship last week at Whisper Creek In Huntley.
Pearson makes history
Wheaton's Jenna Pearson became the first player to win the Illinois Women's Open as both an amateur and a professional when she posted a two-shot victory over Sterling amateur and University of Illinois golfer Ember Schuldt at Mistwood in Romeoville last week.
Pearson won the 2006 title while a student at the University of South Carolina and lost a 10-hole playoff for the title to Libertyville's Nicole Schachner the following year.
Pearson has been in the top six at the IWO five times in the last seven years. She's competing on the LPGA's Duramed Future Tour in Richmond, Va., this week and will try to qualify for the Canadian Open next week.
Did you know?
Chris Williams and Patrick Rodgers, collegians who were among the Western Amateur's Sweet 16 match play qualifiers last week, were named to the U.S. Walker Cup team immediately after their strong showings at North Shore Country Club in Glenview. … Glen Oak, one of three Chicago area private clubs to celebrate its centennial this year, is only the second of the CDGA founding clubs to host the Illinois Amateur. Beverly, in Chicago, was the first last year. Glen Oak's course is playing at 6,741 yards with a par of 71 for the Illinois Amateur. … Texas Christian senior Brooke Beeler, from downstate Butler, will play for the U.S. in the World University Games this week in China.
• Len Ziehm's golf column appears Wednesdays in the Daily Herald. To contact him, visit lenziehmongolf.com.