Rich Berberian Jr., Mike Small capture 2017 OMEGA PGA Professional, Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Awards

By
Bob Denney
PGA of America

Series: PGA

Published: Thursday, December 21, 2017 | 12:18 p.m.

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (Dec. 21, 2017) -- Rich Berberian Jr. of Hooksett, New Hampshire, and Mike Small of Champaign, Illinois, have won the respective 2017 OMEGA PGA Professional and Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year awards.

The twosome will be honored on Friday, June 15, in conjunction with the 51st PGA Professional Championship at Bayonet Black Horse in Seaside, California.

It is the second consecutive national award for Berberian, 30, a PGA Director of Instruction at Vesper Country Club in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts. The 2016 PGA Professional Champion, Berberian secured this year’s PGA Professional Player of the Year honor through winning New England PGA Player of the Year honors; finishing tied for fifth in the PGA Professional Championship in June; making the cut in two PGA Tour events and finishing fourth this month on the PGA Tournament Series money list.

Berberian finished with 907.917 total points, while reigning PGA Professional Champion Omar Uresti of Austin, Texas, was runner-up with 846.5. Rod Perry, the 2013 national Champion, was third (807.500) and Alex Beach of Paramus, New Jersey, fourth (751.964).
Berberian and Mike San Filippo (1993) are the only New England PGA Members to capture the national award.

“It was a year filled with golf, a lot of travel, great opportunities, and a period where I learned a lot about myself,” said Berberian, who got married, took a new job and competed in six PGA Tour events that he earned exemptions from winning the 2016 national championship. He competed in the PGA Championship and in September represented his country on the U.S. PGA Cup Team that faced Great Britain & Ireland.

“I enjoyed a great year at my home club, where they were very kind and supportive of me to be out competing,” said Berberian. “I consider myself lucky to have won one (PGA Professional Player of the Year Award). It took one great putt (a 33-foot birdie) on the last hole (at Turning Stone Resort in Verona, New York). That changed my life forever.

“I owe last year’s Player of the Year award to that putt, that week. That really opened the flood gates. In my mind, this (award) is a bonus.”

Mike Small, a 51-year-old Head Men’s Golf Coach at the University of Illinois, and a three-time national Champion, won his first Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Award. He added the honor to his three PGA Professional Player of the Year Awards (2006, ’07 and ’10).

Small earned 940.73 points, edging Jim Schuman, the PGA Director of Instruction at Blue Mound Golf and Country Club in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin (926.5) by 14.23 points. Jeff Roth of Farmington, New Mexico, the 1993 PGA Professional Champion, finished third (615); and Todd McCorkle of Birmingham, Alabama, was fourth (592.5).

Propelling Small to the award were a pair of top-5 finishes in the PGA’s two premier Member Championships. He shared third in the PGA Professional Championship and tied for fourth in the Senior PGA Professional Championship.

He also finished 42nd in the U.S. Senior Open. Small is the only Illinois PGA Member to claim the national honor in either category. He also joins Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Georgia, as the only PGA Members to win both PGA Professional and Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year awards.

“My schedule has always been dictated by my coaching, and when I get the chance to play, it is a bonus,” said Small. “I’m a coach first, a player second and I look upon any success gives me credibility as a coach. It is an honor to win this award. The PGA of America is very important to me, and a big part of my coaching.

“I feel alive when I’m playing and contending. This year, I felt better physically. I have a new trainer to help me.”

The final PGA Professional and Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year standings were determined based on a point system involving national and PGA Section competitions from Jan. 1 through Dec. 19, 2017.