The Illinois Open has some new looks for its 65th staging this week.
Of the 156 qualifiers for the 54-hole competition that tees off Monday at The Glen Club in Glenview, 81 are amateurs. That's a tournament record. So is the number of past champions in the field -- nine.
The field also has its most unusual family entry yet. Doug Bauman, the veteran head professional at Biltmore in Barrington, has his two sons also competing. Bauman, 57, is a perennial contender in Illinois PGA events, having won the section championship twice.
His sons, though, aren't so experienced. Greg, 26, and Riley, 22, both survived the qualifying round at Crystal Woods, in Woodstock. Greg had qualified for the Illinois Open twice previously. He tied for third at Crystal Woods. Riley, a recent Carthage College graduate, tied for fifth and will be playing in his first Illinois Open.
The Baumans won't play together in the first two rounds, but they'll be able to keep an eye on each other. Doug has an 8:10 a.m. tee time Monday, Riley goes off at 8:20 and Greg at 8:30. All will begin play off No. 1.
Of the past champions the most noteworthy is Mike Small, the University of Illinois men's coach. He has won the tourney four times and needs one more victory to tie Gary Pinns for the most titles. Pinns won his last one in 1990.
The defending champion, however, will go into the event with little momentum and his most helpful caddie of last year unavailable. Antioch touring pro Joe Kinney won the $17,500 first prize last year in a three-hole playoff with Dustin Korte and Carlos Sainz Jr.
Sainz came to the Illinois Open off a victory on the Canadian PGA Tour, then went on to win the Chicago Open and earn a berth on the PGA Tour's Web.com circuit in the fall Qualifying School. Kinney, though, couldn't keep his momentum going.
"I finished last year on the NGA (formerly Hooters) Tour," said Kinney. "I missed going to the second stage of Q-School by a couple shots, so my season was over. I had to learn to pace myself. After I won I was excited and wanted to play every week. I got burned out pretty quickly."
This year he's been playing on the Adams Tour, a circuit that has tournaments in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Kansas. Kinney admits that he hasn't burned up that mini-tour, but he did take fifth place two weeks ago in Miami, Okla.
Of more concern to Kinney is the health of Greg Kunkel, the caddie master at Sunset Ridge in Northbrook who was on Kinney's bag last year. Kunkel, who carried for several other high finishers in previous Illinois Opens, is battling cancer and isn't able to work this week.
Kinney has joined the caddies at Sunset Ridge in wearing a bracelet inscribed with the words "Kunk-strong" in support of Kunkel.
"He's a good friend and, if anybody can overcome this, he can," said Kinney.
The 156 starters will play 18 holes Monday and Tuesday before the field is cut to the low 50 and ties for Wednesday's final round.