If you're a regular reader of PGA.com, you know that PGA Professional Mike Small owns a list of accomplishments unlike any other golfer around. And on Friday night, he became the youngest person ever inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame.
Small, 47, was part of the 15th class to be inducted into the Illinois hall, along with his fellow PGA Professional Bob Harris and PGA Tour and Champions Tour standout Jay Haas.
Small was born in Aurora, Ill., and was a teammate of PGA Tour star Steve Stricker at the University of Illinois, where he played an integral role on the Illini's 1988 Big Ten Championship team while finishing second behind Stricker for the individual Big Ten title. He turned professional in 1990, began competing on smaller tours and became a PGA member in 1996. The following season, he won the Monterey Open and Cleveland Open and finished in the top 15 on the Nike Tour money list, which earned him his PGA Tour card for the 1998 season.
A few years later, Small became the head golf coach at Illinois, which has become a national powerhouse under his leadership. During his tenure, the team has captured five Big Ten titles (2009-2013) and competed in eight NCAA National Championships (2002, 2003, 2008-2013). Small has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year six times (2002, 2009-2013), and this year's team finished as the NCAA runner-up.
In addition, he's captured the Illinois PGA Championship a record nine times (2001, 2003-2010), the Illinois Open four times (2003, 2005-2007) and the 2007 Illinois PGA Match Play Championship. He's the only person to win both the Illinois PGA Championship and Illinois Open in the same year – a feat he's accomplished four times.
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Nationally, Small has won the PGA Professional National Championship three times (2005, 2009, 2010), tying Larry Gilbert as the only three-time winners of the prestigious event. He has been honored as the PGA of America Player of the Year three times (2006, 2007, 2010) and is a four-time member of the U.S. PGA Cup team. He has competed in eight PGA Championships, making the cut three times (2005, 2007, 2011), and played in three U.S. Opens. He's also the only member of the Illinois PGA to win the PGA Professional National Championship.
Harris, meanwhile, became one of the greatest Illinois PGA Professionals to ever play the game, earning NCAA team and individual championships and competing in the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship. He also was the PGA head golf professional at one of Chicago's most prestigious country clubs.
Now 84, Harris began caddying at the age of 12. His high school didn't have a golf team, but he played at San Jose State University, where in 1948 the team won the NCAA championship and he was the individual champion. He served in the military for four years during the Korean War, earned his PGA membership in the mid-1950s and began a quarter-century run at Sunset Ridge near Chicago.
Harris won the Illinois PGA Match Play Championship a record six consecutive times (1958-1963), the Illinois PGA Championship twice (1959, 1961) and the Illinois Open twice (1955, 1956). Nationally, he competed in the Masters twice (1956, 1961), the U.S. Open seven times (1949, 1955, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1968) and the PGA Championship three times (1959-1961). And at one point, he held nine scoring records at golf courses in the Chicagoland area.
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Haas, one of the most consistent players in PGA Tour history, holds the record for most career cuts made on the tour with 592. Playing for Wake Forest, he won the NCAA individual championship in 1975 on a team that Golf World called "the greatest college team of all time.'' The Wake Forest teams headed by Haas and Curtis Strange won the NCAA team championship in 1974 and 1975.
Haas, 59, grew up in Belleville, Ill, made his first hole-in-one at age 10 and was the Illinois State High School champion his junior year. At Wake Forest, he was named to the NCAA All-America team four consecutive years (1973-1976) and earned All-ACC honors in 1975 and 1976, the first two years it was awarded. Also, in 1975 he received the Fred Haskins Award, given annually to the most outstanding college golfer in the United States.
He won nine times on the PGA Tour, competed in the Ryder Cup three times (1983, 1995, 2004), owns 16 Champions Tour victories, and was the Champions Tour Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007. He received the 2004 Payne Stewart Award, presented to a player sharing Stewart's respect for the traditions of the game, and the 2006 Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the USGA.