Mike 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. Small has succeeded in recruiting on the worldwide stage, including bringing in St. Louis native Scott Langley who eventually won the NCAA Individual title. 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.
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.