By John Kim, PGA.com Coordinating Producer
SAN MARTIN, Calif. -- Add one more feather in the cap of the Fighting Illini's chief golfer.
Mike Small, the head coach of the nationally ranked University of Illinois men’s golf team, has more than made a name for himself in the golf world. A former PGA Tour player who occasionally still plays in Tour events, he has won three PGA Professional National Championships (tied with Larry Gilbert for the most PGA PNC championships) and now been a part of three winning PGA Cup teams (played on four teams total) while turning the Illini into a perennial national powerhouse.
This week was even more chaotic in a life that can often make crazy seem normL. It started with Small playing in the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship Pro-Am at Cog Hill, where he is an icon in the state.
"I was there to help and support the WGA (Western Golf Association); they've been so good to my program," Small stated. "I went there to entertain a few folks, help the pro-am, that's really important to me as much as they've done."
Small then jumped on a plane to join the team for practice, the pro-am and three intense days of competition.
"And then to come out here and play for your country and teammates, that's a lot of fun," he remarked. But that was a far cry from his thoughts early in the week when he first arrived.
"I've played in 10 major championships, played on the PGA Tour, hit horrible shots in front of 20,000 people," Small said with a smile. "But I never get as nervous as I do when I tee it up at the start of a PGA Cup."
Standing alongside his victorious teammates as they watched play finish up on Sunday afternoon, Small seemed as relieved as he was exuberant, excited that he was part of another Llandudno Trophy victory but a bit disappointed at his own performance on the final day.
"It was a long week and this has been the story of my summer," Small said. "I'll play pretty good for three or four days and then just lose it. That's what happened today on the back nine -- I was playing beautifully and was 3 up and then played terrible."
But Small's focus was on the bigger picture, another win for the U.S. side.
"The relationships and friendships you build, that's so great. This is what the Ryder Cup was 60 years ago,” he explained. “Players getting together and able to compete with intensity and still slap high fives with the other team and the spirit of fair play, sportsmanship and friendship are the biggest takeaways."
And on a professional level, Small has another huge win.
"This is huge for me, competing in this type format, seeing it from the player's point of view is huge for me and my job. This is so closely tied in to what I do and I benefit a lot as a coach from playing in this event."
So in any number of ways, Mike Small leaves CordeValle a winner -- again.