LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. – August 8, 2023 – Mike Small (University of Illinois) carded a final round 8-under-par 64 at the Merit Club on Tuesday to win the 2023 Illinois Senior PGA Professional Championship by six strokes. This year’s victory marks the sixth career win at this event for Small. He will lead eight Illinois Section PGA Professionals at the Senior PGA Professional Championship at the PGA Golf Club this October.
“The course was in great shape. The greens were rolling great. It’s a really good atmosphere out here at Merit Club. It’s a place that makes you want to play golf and you always enjoy playing here,” said Small. “I played pretty well. Yesterday I was kind of up and down, but today after my first tee shot, I hit it really well the rest of the day. So, it was a solid round, I’m happy with it. It’s always fun to get a victory too.”
In total, Small carded a 10-under-par 134. He began his Championship run with a 2-under-par 70 on Monday morning. Small recorded a double-bogey on the par-4 14th hole in round one after hitting his tee shot into the right penalty area. The double bogey dropped Small out of the lead, and he found himself chasing the field. He would recover with a birdie on the par-5 18th hole and took a one-stroke lead into the final round.
Small was focused on securing his sixth Illinois Senior PGA Professional Championship as he started his second round 2-under-par through his first four holes. He carded back-to-back birdies on holes three and four. Despite being bogey-free on the front nine, Small was struggling to put space between himself and the field. The eighth hole at Merit Club was playing 525 yards with a strong helping wind. Small hit his second shot over the green and chipped in for eagle to give himself a two-stroke lead.
Making the turn two shots clear of the field, Small continued his impressive play. After parring the 10th and 11th holes, Small reached the green on the par-5 12th in two. However, his eagle opportunity would have to wait as the alarms sounded for hazardous weather.
After a two-hour rain delay, Small returned to the course and hit a perfect lag putt leaving him a tap in for birdie. He moved to 7-under-par for the Championship and opened up a three-shot lead. The delay did not seem to affect Small in any way as his bogey-free round continued on holes 13 and 14.
Small then slammed the door shut on the rest of the field as he carded back-to-back birdies on holes 16 and 17. On 16, Small hit his second shot onto the top shelf of the back-to-front sloping green and left himself about four feet for birdie. He then moved to the par-3 16th where he hit his tee shot a little short and left himself about a 20-foot uphill birdie putt. Small poured it in to record his fifth birdie of the day and move to 9-under-par. The cherry on top came on the par-5 18th as Small capped off an impressive round with his sixth birdie of the day, fourth on the back nine, to capture his sixth Illinois Senior PGA Professional Championship.
“Rain delays can sometimes stop your momentum, but we got to warm up which was good. When I got back out there, I was still feeling good,” said Small. “In the end, it was fine. It’s part of the game.”
David Hannon (Links and Tees) carded a 5-under-par 67 in the final round for a tournament total of 6-under-par 138 and finished in solo second place. Hannon had an impressive day on Tuesday afternoon that was highlighted by eagles on eight and 18. Similar to Small, Hannon’s eagle on the eighth hole was a result of a chip-in from the greenside rough. He also carded five birdies on the day and played his last three holes of the tournament 4-under-par.
2022 Champion Roy Biancalana (The Hawk Country Club) finished in solo third place after 5-under-par 139. He also had an impressive final round, carding a bogey-free 4-under-par. On the front nine, he brought himself within striking distance of the lead a couple of times but struggled to make birdies on his way into the clubhouse.
Mike Troy (Zigfield Troy) finished in solo fourth place and was the final player to shoot under par for the Championship. Troy carded rounds of 71, 69 for a tournament total of 4-under-par 140.
David Paeglow (Kishwaukee Country Club) and Brian Groszek (The Hawk Country Club) rounded out the top five at this year’s Illinois Senior PGA Professional Championship with matching 1-over-par 145s for the week.
Small, Hannon, Biancalana, Troy, Paeglow, and Groszek will be joined by John Cleary (Exmoor Country Club), and Scott Baines (Bryn Mawr Country Club) at the 2023 Senior PGA Professional Championship at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida on October 26-29.
The Illinois PGA would like to thank long-time Illinois PGA Partner, Nadler Golf Cars for their support of the Section and of the Illinois Senior PGA Professional Championship. This year marked the first time that Nadler Golf Cars supported the Illinois Senior PGA Professional Championship, in addition to supporting the Illinois PGA Professional Championship for decades.
The Illinois PGA now turns its attention to the Illinois PGA Professional Championship. The Section Championship is set to take place Monday – Wednesday, August 14-16 at Thunderhawk Golf Club.
“I’m playing better than I have the last couple of years. My ball striking has been better,” said Small. “I still have a couple of things to work through when I get the time to work on them to get ready for next week, but I’m looking forward to it.”
About the Illinois PGA/Illinois PGA Foundation
The Illinois Section of the PGA of America is a professional organization serving the men and women golf professionals in northern and central Illinois who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf. The Illinois PGA is responsible for the administration of competitive golf tournaments, educational opportunities, support programs and growth of the game initiatives. With over 840 members and apprentices, the Illinois PGA is one of the 41 regional Sections that comprise the PGA of America. The Illinois PGA Foundation focuses its community efforts on promoting the goodwill and growth of the game with an emphasis on activities that benefit youth. Foundation initiatives include: GolfWorks Illinois, Youth-based Scholarship Funds and the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame. For more information about the Illinois PGA and the Illinois PGA Foundation, please visit www.ipga.com and join us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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Illinois PGA Communications