Mike Small Builds the perfect golfer

Mike Small Builds the perfect golfer

Veteran men's golf coach Mike Small has proven his worth as a mentor for the Illini, guiding Illinois to eight Big Ten championships in his 16 seasons.

But the Danville native also has had his share of success as a player, participating in more than 70 PGA Tour events over the last three decades. Illini Legends, Lists & Lore recently asked him to assemble his perfect golfer, borrowing attributes from the best players he's observed and/or played with. Here are his thoughts:

LONGEST DRIVER: John Daly. Maybe the most naturally talented golfer of all time, in my opinion.

DRIVER ACCURACY: Joe Durant. The best all-around driver of the ball I have ever played with.

IRONS: Jordan Spieth. This was a strength of his in college; he is fearless with his irons.

SHORT GAME: Phil Mickelson. He has all the shots inside 100 yards and has the confidence to back it up.

PUTTING: Steve Stricker and Brad Faxon. Whenever I played with these two, even their misses looked like they might go in the hole.

BUNKER ARTIST: KJ Choi. He always seemed to use his bunker game as an asset and pick up shots on the field from being in trouble in the sand.

CONFIDENCE: Payne Stewart. He was charismatic and confident in everything he did; from the way he dressed, to the way that he played, he was always in control of "his space."

SHORT-TERM MEMORY (who was best at moving on after a bad shot): Phil Mickelson. A great short game always makes it easier to shake off a bad shot or bad swing. You believe you are always still in the hole with a great short game to bail you out.

FOCUS/CONCENTRATION: Jack Nicklaus. I never played with him, but how could you pick someone else?

BEST AT VISUALIZING HOW TO ESCAPE A TRICKY LIE: Seve Ballesteros. As a kid, he was the one I always loved to watch escape from trouble, over and over again.

COMPETITIVE NATURE: Chris DiMarco. A pure bulldog. He overachieved in his career more than anyone in the last 25 years.

PEOPLE SKILLS WITH FANS: Phil Mickelson. Crowds love him.

BEST TEAMMATE (in team competition): Steve Stricker. Everyone wants him on their team, and I had him on mine for three years. Just being around him made me a better player.

Illini Birthdays:

Today: Chad Little, football (52)

Monday: George Donnelly, football (75)

Tuesday: Brad Hopkins, football (47)

Wednesday: John Wright, Jr., football (48)

Thursday: Lou Tepper, football coach (72)

Friday: A.J. Jenkins, football (28)

Saturday: Jack Trudeau, football (55)

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore. Get more Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter@B1GLLL. His website is http://www.SportsLLL.com.

Sections (3):Illini Sports, Golf, Sports