ILLINOIS OPEN: Kinney dominates playoff for first pro victory

There were lots of doubts about who would win the 64th Illinois Open during Wednesday’s final round at The Glen Club in Glenview. In fact, no one did.

Antioch’s Joe Kinney, who’s been laboring on golf’s mini-tours, clearly showed who was best in the three-man three-hole cumulative score playoff that determined the champion, however.

Kinney, 26, started the playoff with a two-putt birdie on 566-yard par-5 No. 1. He hit the green with a 251-yard hybrid second shot and lagged his first putt from 70 feet to set up a two-foot tap-in. That was the only birdie by any player in the playoff.

The par-3 17th, the second playoff hole, offered Kinney a chance for another. He put his 5-iron tee shot five feet from the cup. Though he missed his birdie putt, neither of his rivals — Dustin Korte, an amateur from downstate Metropolis, and Carlos Sainz Jr., of Elgin — could even par the hole so Kinney’s lead grew.

He was two strokes in front heading to No. 18, a 582-yard par-5. Kinney didn’t let up on the last playoff hole, keeping his first two shots on the fairway and his approach from 110 yards on the green. Two putts later he was the champion and winner of $17,500.

“Hats off to Joe,’’ said Sainz, a winner on the Canadian PGA Tour on Sunday before hurrying to Chicago. “He played the three holes in the playoff flawless. We didn’t give him much of an obstacle.’’

The trio in the playoff finished the regulation 54 holes in 5-under-par 211. In the three playoff holes Kinney used 12 strokes, Korte, 14 and Sainz 17.

“Getting the early advantage in the playoff was pretty clutch. I did the work I needed to do on the first two holes, then I could cruise in,’’ said Kinney, who returns to competition at a National Golf Assn. tournament in Hickory, N.C., next week.

Actually the three playoff participants were lucky to be playing off for the premier title for Illinois golfers. Michael Davan, of Hoopeston, blew a two-stroke lead with two holes to go. His bogey-double bogey finish kept him out of the playoff.

The double came after Davan, not knowing where he stood on the leaderboard, put his second shot in a pond at No. 18, then he three-putted. Davan insisted that going for the green over water from 256 yards with a 3-wood second shot was the right decision even though he needed just a par to win.

“That was the right play call,’’ he said. “I felt I needed to hit that shot, I just didn’t hit it solid. I’m proud that I had the guts to do it.’’

Kinney notched his first professional win with Greg Kunkle on the bag. Kunkle is the longtime caddie master at Sunset Ridge in Northfield and frequent bag-toter in the Illinois Open. Kinney’s brother Andrew works as an assistant professional at Sunset, and Kunkle has given Joe some choice caddie assignments to supplement his tournament earnings.

The Glen Club has been a friendly place for Kinney. In the rain-shortened 2007 Illinois Open Kinney played in the final group on the last day while still in college. He played in the 2011 tournament, finishing tied for 12th at Hawthorn Woods, and he tied for ninth when the event returned to The Glen last year. He opened this year’s tourney with a 65 – the best round of the tournament.

A 72 in the second round left Kinney four strokes back entering the final round, but the seven players in front of him struggled in breezy conditions.

“I had been swinging well all week,’’ said Kinney. “I felt I had a good chance after I birdied 10. I saw all the cameras (photographers) arriving, so I thought I must be close to the lead, and I didn’t miss a green the rest of the day.’’