Small adds to Illinois PGA haul
OLYMPIA FIELDS — The tournament Mike Small once ruled for eight consecutive years is his again.
After a two-year gap, the University of Illinois men’s golf coach again is champion of the Illinois PGA Championship. That’s title No. 10, if you’re counting.
“This never gets old, and that’s why we compete,” Small said Wednesday after accepting the Jim Kemper Cup as the winner of the tournament’s 91st edition.
The 47-year-old Small, who had won this event every year from 2003 to 2010, entered the final round 2 strokes off the lead in second place.
He responded with a 3-under-par 68 at Olympia Fields Country Club to pull away to a 4-shot victory.
Small’s best round of the 54-hole tournament left him with a 4-under 209 total.
Small is no stranger to success in the state’s showcase golf events, having also won the Illinois Open four times, most recently in 2007. But the former Illini All-American and one-time PGA Tour regular viewed Wednesday’s outcome as particularly special. And not just because it had been a while since he walked away with the trophy.
“This is the one that means a lot to me because we’re PGA members, and this is a big deal to us,” Small said “There’s some added pressure, too, because you have people pulling for you.”
It wasn’t lost on Small, either, that his last Illinois PGA Championship crown came on this same course.
“I was happy to be back at Olympia,” he said. “It’s just a fun place to be, and I hope they keep having it here.”
Champaign Country Club pro Lance Olson tied for 50th with a 231 total.