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In the Illinois PGA Section Championship there is no other player like University of Illinois golf coach Mike Small.
Small won the championship for the 12th time, with a 2 shot victory over Curtis Malm, Brian Brodell and Travis Johns.
Small finished at 10 under par, with the second place finishers all at 8 under par.
What was different this time at Olympia Fields for Small a member, was that he did not run a way with the title like in past years. Small had to fight back all day and win it, this one was no 7 or 8 shot runaway.
This time it was Curtis Malm’s title to win or lose and unfortunately for the head professional from the White Eagle Country Club in Naperville, he lost it. Leading most of the day, Malm saw Small make back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15 with the second birdie for the tie. With both players at 11 under par Malm was home in two on the par 4, 16th hole. Small on right side fringe, but he rolled his first putt up within two feet and made his par.
Malm left himself 4 feet and missed for a three-putt bogey. Now down 1 shot on 17 and with Small in the fairway, Malm pushed his drive right and saw it kick into the brush buy about 2 feet. While taking a stance and trying a practice swing, Malm’s hand got hooked on a sticker branch and it cut open the top of his hand.
Malm had to get a towel from his caddie to wipe away the blood, after electing to take a drop from an unplayable lie, Malm’s attempt to punch out hit a tree and deflected back into the brush about 50 yards closer to the green. Then after another drop he almost holed his approach from 85 yards. After missing a short putt, Malm made a triple bogey 7, and now 4 back with one hole to play Small pretty much had things locked up.
On 18 Small played it safe and had a short par putt lip out, to finish at 10 under par, while Malm hit driver off the deck and was almost on the par 5 hole in two shots. Malm pitched up for an easy birdie to tie Medinah teaching professional (Travis) John’s who would have had second place solo, but his birdie putt on 18 also lipped out. John’s bogeyed holes 1 & 2 and struggle to find his game most of the round. By the time he did down the stretch it was too late to put pressure on Small and Malm.
Click here to hear interviews from Mike Small and runner up Curtis Malm.
Mistwood’s Brian Brodell made a nice final round charge with 8 birdies, but admitted he never felt he had a chance to win starting the final round just too far back of players he knew would not back up. But like Johns and Malm, all three second place finishers qualified for the 2017 Club professional championship.
For Small being a three-time past champion in the Club Professional Championship, he is exempt into the field. Small won a first place check of $11,200 as the section championship continues to be a place for Small to build a retirement fund for himself.
Next years championship will be played at the Stonewall orchard Golf Club in Grayslake.