By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – For the second time in five years, Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., rose to the top among his peers to stand on the 18th green for a crystal bowl tribute in a PGA Championship.
The men’s head coach at the University of Illinois, who has built the cold-weather school into a top-10 collegiate golf powerhouse, turned in an 8-over-par 78 Sunday at Atlanta Athletic Club’s Highlands Course. Though not the 18-hole finale he had wanted, Small’s 72-hole total of 12-over-par 292 represented the top effort among 20 PGA Club Professionals in the Season’s Final Major.
“It was great to have my family there and supporting me. I didn't finish how I wanted to but there were spots and places where I played well,” said Small, who competed in his 10th career major and made his third cut in seven PGA Championship appearances. He wound up tied for 69th – the same result as former PGA champion Y.E. Yang and European Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari.
“It’s just special to compete and represent PGA Members everywhere. It doesn't get much more special than this. I am going to just relax and watch some golf this afternoon,” he explained. “I was pulling all week for ‘Strick’ [Steve Stricker] and D.A. [Points]. They are both Illinois guys and it would have been really cool to be on the 18th green next to them. With any Champion on the 18th green, it's cool, you can feel the energy from them.”
In 2007, Small stood on the 18th green at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., accepting the crystal bowl before the crowd cheered for PGA Champion Tiger Woods.
Now, it’s back to work this week for Small, who said that any appearance he makes in a PGA Championship has elevated his recruiting at Illinois.
“I have to get recruiting tomorrow. I need to see where my team and players are at and get back to the grind,” he said, with a smile. Ever the competitor, Small said that his even-par start on the front nine had him believing that he could turn in his best round of the week.
“I really started well but got into trouble and it went sideways a bit. If you are not able to hit the fairways, you are in a lot of trouble on this course,” he said. “This is the fastest and driest major I have ever played in. But, it was fun to represent all the members of The PGA of America. In the end, only one guy leaves happy from every tournament. It's the guy that wins. It's a great experience every year.”PGA Club Professionals in the 93rd PGA Championship
Mike Small, Champaign, Ill. 73-71-70-78—292Did Not Make 36-Hole Cut
Bob Sowards, Dublin, Ohio 69-76—145
Steve Schneiter, Saratoga Springs, Utah 72-76—148
Sean Dougherty, Overland Park, Kan. 74-74—148
Jeff Coston, Blaine, Wash. 76-73—149
Rob McClellan, Butler, Pa. 78-72—150
Mike Northern, Colorado Springs, Colo. 77-74—151
Stuart Smith, Reno, Nev. 72-81—153
Craig Stevens, Dallas, Ga. 76-77—153
Rob Moss, Broadview Heights, Ohio 78-77—155
Faber Jamerson, Appomattox, Va. 77-78—155
Dan Olsen, Free Soil, Mich. 78-77—155
David Hutsell, Baltimore, Md. 76-80—156
Brad Lardon, College Station, Texas 73-83—156
Jeff Sorenson, Blaine, Minn. 75-83—158
Marty Jertson, Phoenix, Ariz. 75-84—159
Danny Balin, Greenwich, Conn. 81-79—160
Todd Camplin, West End, N.C. 82-79—161
Scott Erdmann, Tigard, Ore. 80-81—161
Brian Cairns, Waterford, Mich. 85-79—164