Small Defends XXIO Illinois Senior Open Title

Jun 27, 2023


ADDISON, Ill. – June 27, 2023 – Mike Small (Champaign, Ill.) won the 2023 XXIO Illinois Senior Open Championship on Tuesday, June 27 at the Preserve at Oak Meadows. Mike came back from a one-stroke deficit after round one to defeat Mark Small (a) (Frankfort, Ill.) in a playoff en route to his second consecutive Illinois Senior Open Championship. Mike carded rounds of 69 and 70 for a tournament total of 5-under-par 139.

“It always feels good to win and defend your title,” said Mike. “However, I think Mark deserved to win. He played more solidly than any of us today. The tide turned at the end for me and I snuck it out.”

In the end, it was the battle of the Smalls, but it proved to be anything but. Mike knew he had to make some birdies if he wanted to defend his XXIO Illinois Senior Open title. His aggressiveness paid off early as he hit two of the first four greens under regulation.

He started the day one stroke behind Mark Small but quickly got into a tie for the lead after hitting the par-5 second green in two and making a birdie. He was forced to settle for a par on the second hole after a near miss for birdie and fell back into second as Mark made birdie. He then drove the green on the 300-yard par-4 fourth hole and made birdie to jump back into a tie for the lead at 5-under-par. Mike was unable to recover from an errant shot on the par-4 sixth hole and dropped back to second place after a bogey on the sixth hole. Mike made the turn at 4-under-par and trailed by one stroke.

Mike had a handful of opportunities to cut into the lead and possibly take the lead early on the back nine. He hit nice approach shots into the 11th and 12th greens but nearly missed both birdie chances, including burning an edge on the par-4 12th hole.

The 13th hole appeared to be the turning point of the final round but may have fueled the fire for Mike instead. He hit his tee shot into the left penalty area and was forced to take a drop. It resulted in a bogey for Mike and a two-shot swing in favor of Mark who found himself with a three-stroke lead with five holes to play.

However, the round was not over. After hitting a nice drive into the fairway of the par-5 15th hole, Mike stuck his second shot to about five feet, again hitting a green under regulation. Despite the spectacular shot from Mike, he missed the eagle putt and settled for a tap-in birdie. A par from Mark left Mike two strokes behind with three holes to play.

The tees on the par-4 16th hole were moved up and the hole was playing 290 yards. Mike hit his drive to the right of the green. Mark elected to lay up and hit his drive in the middle of the fairway. Mike left himself with a chip that was the width of the entire green and sloping away from him. He hit a perfect chip shot, just missing the hole and running out to about four feet. Mike tapped in for birdie, while Mark finished up for par. Heading to the 17th hole, Mike was only trailing by one stroke.

“I knew I was three down with four holes to play after the bogey on 13 so it wasn’t looking very good for me. But you can make up some ground on 15 and 16,” said Mike. “I had a chance to eagle 15 but missed that short putt but was still able to make birdie there and on 16. Then Mark had a tough three-putt on 17. I was just holding on at that point. Mark was playing steady all day and I was just happy to pull it out in the end.”

Both players hit the green with their tee shots on the par-3 17th hole. Mike hit a nice lag putt and left himself a short putt for par. Mark would three-putt the 17th green for the second time in the tournament, and the Smalls were tied at 5-under-par heading into the 36th hole of the Championship.

After pars on the 18th hole, Mike and Mark returned to the 18th tee for a sudden-death playoff. Both players hit good tee shots. Mark played first from the center of the fairway and missed the green to the left, short siding himself. Mike played second from the left rough and hit his approach shot to the center of the green. Mike hit his birdie putt to tap in range, putting the pressure on Mark to get up and down. Mark’s chip shot just trickled onto the green and he was unable to make his par putt. Mike then tapped in for his par to secure his second career XXIO Illinois Senior Open Championship.

Illinois PGA Members, Roy Biancalana (St. Charles, Ill.), and David Paeglow (DeKalb, Ill.) recorded the low rounds of the day with 4-under-par 68s. Bryan Luedtke (Galesburg, Ill.) of the Iowa Section also carded a 4-under-par 68 in the final round to join Biancalana and Paeglow for the lowest round of the day. Biancalana and Luedtke finished T3 with tournament totals of 3-under-par 141, and Paeglow finished T5 with a tournament total of 2-under-par 142.

The Illinois PGA circuit returns on Monday, July 10 for the Illinois PGA Stroke Play #5 at Oak Park Country Club. The Illinois PGA would like to thank Title Sponsor XXIO, and Supporting Sponsors Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and Illinois Bone and Joint Institute for their support of the Illinois Senior Open Championship.

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Kevin Quinn
Illinois PGA Communications
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