WCIA — Mike Small has coached some of the best players in Illinois golf history but make no mistake about it, the Illini alum isn’t done pursuing his own success.
“At times, I can play as well as anybody,” Small said.
Small qualified for his 10th PGA Championship earlier this summer, tying for third at the PGA Professional Championship in Oregon.
“I went three years without making it, so it’s good to be back in it,” added Small. “It’s good to go back down and play in that arena, but I have to get my game better. I have to do some work on it.”
That includes keeping up with a much younger pool of competitors. The 51-year-old has been on the professional circuit since 1990, playing on several PGA Tours full-time before becoming the Illinois coach.
“My years are running out,” Small joked. “I’m playing against guys that are 30 years younger than me but to finish third in the professional national championship out in Oregon, and have a chance to win the last hole.”
Coming so close to a win has Small focusing on the details of his game, in particular his short game.
“I can’t fake it to myself,” he said. “I got to prepare a little better. I got to hold myself more accountable pre-tournament round so that I can hold myself accountable during the round.”
Small won’t be the only Illini at golf’s fourth and final major in Charlotte. He’ll get the unique opportunity to play alongside a former teammate in Steve Stricker and player Thomas Pieters. Former Illini D.A. Points is also in the field.
“I’ll go play in another major and spend the week with Thomas Pieters and spend the week with Strick(er) and play some practice rounds, and continue to learn being around the best players in the world, and see if I can make some money while I’m at it,” Small said.
Illinois Golf Tee Times at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow — First Round:
Pieters – 7:40 a.m. – 1st tee
Small – 11:45 a.m. – 1st Tee
Stricker – 12:40 p.m. – 10th tee
Points – 12:50 p.m. – 10th tee