Carlos Sainz Jr.'s 5-under 31 on the front nine Wednesday at Cantigny Golf powered him to a come-from-behind victory against a strong national field in the latest revival of the tradition-rich Chicago Open.
A winner earlier this year on the Canadian Tour, Sainz, 27, of Elgin, wound up with a 6-under par total 210 in the 54-hole event, recording rounds of 71-71-68. Sainz won by two over second-round leader Matt Thompson, a former University of Michigan player, and earned $7,000 of the $50,000 purse.
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The field included players from 18 states and three countries, with many of the competitors honing their games for the next week's first stage of the PGA Tour's Web.com qualifying school.
Sainz, who worked in the pro shop at Cantigny during his college years, got as low as 7-under par during the weather-perfect final round but bogeyed No. 15 to slip to 6 under.
Thompson missed an 8-foot birdie putt on 17 that would have cut Sainz's lead to one. Sainz is exempt into the final round of the Web.com Qualifying tournament, in December.
The Illinois Junior Golf Association resurrected the Chicago Open this year after a 12-year hiatus in order to help raise money for the 2,500-member organization. The association -- where Sainz competed as a junior golfer -- conducts 130 tournaments every year for boys and girls ages 8-18.
Five other players from Illinois finished tied for eighth or better, including Libertyville's Michael Schachner and Bloomington's Brandon Holtz (both T-4, 1-under), and University of Illinois head golf coach Mike Small, Matt Miller of Bloomington and Chris Brandt of Edwardsville, who were tied for eighth at 1-over.
"Winning earlier this year really helped a lot," Sainz said. "I won on a bigger level this year, which was big for me, because I'd never done that. I've played four years out there and I got my first win this year.
"I've been improving little by little every year, and this year with the help of sponsors and being able to play full time it has really catapulted me into being a better player."
First played in 1914 at nearby Chicago Golf Club, the Chicago Open has a list of world-class past champions, including Gene Sarazen (1937), Sam Snead (1938), Ben Hogan (1941-42, 1947), Byron Nelson (1945-46), Ken Venturi (1958-59) and Luke Donald (2000).
"The Illinois Junior Golf Association is extremely pleased with the success of the 2013 Chicago Open," said Carrie Williams, executive director of the Illinois Junior Golf Association
"To be able to crown a former IJGA competitor helps us highlight the mission of the IJGA and helps underscore the purpose of our reviving this great championship. We are looking forward to having an even better event next year."