University of Illinois Men's Golf Coach Mike Small named PGA Professional Player of the Year
For most of us golf award wonks, the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award has become laughably predictable.
Tiger Woods again? What a surprise.
For real competition, one needs to look to the annual competition for PGA Professional Player of the Year. Competition for this prestigious award is much stiffer, and one could even argue that it is also much truer to the roots of the game. It’s an award for PGA professionals who are not regulars on any tour, and who spend most of their time teaching or coaching.
In his sixth season as men’s golf coach, the 40-year-old Small earned 1,436.5 points, 336.5 points ahead of reigning PGA Professional National Champion Ron Philo Jr., of White Plains, N.Y. Two-time PGA Professional Player of the Year Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, was third with 926 points.
Small is already one of the most dominant players in Illinois PGA history. He has won the Illinois PGA Championship five of the past six years and captured three of the past four Illinois Open titles. In 2006, he finished fourth in the PGA Professional National Championship. Small was the 2005 National Champion, and was runner-up in 2004. He is the only member of his Section ever to win both the National Championship and PGA Professional Player of the Year honors.
Last season, Small made the cut in six of nine Tour events in which he was entered, including five of nine on the PGA Tour. His highest finish was a tie for 38th in the U.S. Bank Championship. He also had the honor of hitting the first shot of the 2006 PGA Championship.
Small’s quality resume as a player certainly can’t hurt his team recruiting. “It helps to break the ice,” he said recently, “and lets [the recruits and their parents] know who you are.”
No, he’s not Tiger. But even Tiger can’t win every award.
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