Illini coach edges all club professionals at PGA Championship

By The Associated Press

Even after his round fell apart on the back nine, University of Illinois golf coach Mike Small was still the top club professional remaining in the field.

He shot an 8-over-par 78 while playing partner Ryan Benzel, the only other club pro who made the cut, finished with an 80. The two started the day tied at 3 over.

Small said there wasn’t a chance to spark up any kind of competition.

“I’ll tell you what, you book around there pretty fast in this heat. We didn’t have time to talk,” Small said. “We were just doing our thing.”

Small formerly played on the PGA Tour and has qualified for three U.S. Opens and four PGA Championships. He made the cut at the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol before shooting an 80 in the third round, and he missed the cut by one stroke last year at Medinah.

“I always seem to sink to the bottom on the weekend,” Small said. “I’m trying to figure out, `Why is that?’ It’s ridiculous.”

Small won the Illinois Open on Wednesday before coming down to Southern Hills, adding another busy week to a whirlwind summer.

He’s held two golf schools, summer camps, recruited for four weeks and played in the U.S. Open. When he gets back, he’ll hold fundraisers for the program and open a new golf practice facility when alumnus Steve Stricker returns to hold his annual golf tournament.

“He can really give a lot of insight to kids that are coming there to school and help them out in that direction if they’re looking to maybe turn pro later on in life,” said Stricker, who shot 69.

“You can’t beat Illinois for a school and they’re starting to get up to the times with their practice facilities and all that kind of stuff, so the future looks bright for them.”