NORMAN, Okla. – Mike Small, head men’s golf coach at the University of Illinois and a member of the Illinois PGA Section, has been named winner of the Labron Harris Sr. Award presented by the Golf Coaches Association of America in cooperation with The PGA of America. The Harris Award is presented to the college or high school coach and PGA Professional whose support of the game through teaching, coaching and involvement in the community has helped ensure the continued growth of the game of golf and who represents the finest qualities the game has to offer.
“I’m very honored and grateful to receive this prestigious award,” said Small. “Labron Harris set an important example in the value of giving back to the game of golf as both a PGA professional and as a college golf coach. For many of us, being a member of both the PGA of America and the GCAA is a wonderful experience and privilege, and I am proud to join the previous award recipients in helping to continue the legacy of this wonderful award.”
Small has brought national recognition to the Illinois golf program in his decade-plus as head coach. Small has guided the Illini to five straight Big Ten championships and has coached two NCAA individual champions in Scott Langley (2010) and Thomas Pieters (2012). He also coached the 2012 Big Ten Player of the Year Luke Guthrie - who repeated as the individual Big Ten champion and broke the program’s career stroke average record to complete an illustrious career - and 2013 Big Ten Player of the Year Pieters, who won the program’s third-straight Big Ten medalist honors. Small has coached four Big Ten Players of the Year in addition to Langley (2010) and James Lepp (2003).
The Fighting Illini narrowly missed a magical finish in 2013, making a memorable run to an NCAA runner-up finish. Illinois qualified for the NCAA Championships for the sixth-straight year and reached the match-play finals for the second time in three years. The Illini are one of only six schools to reach the NCAA Championships in each of the last six years. Then, the Orange and Blue knocked off defending NCAA champ Texas in the quarterfinals and upset No. 1 California - dubbed by many as the greatest collegiate golf team ever - in the semifinals when Pieters beat 2013 NCAA medalist Max Homa in 20 holes. But the Illini’s magic ran out against Alabama, with the Crimson Tide taking a 4-1 victory in the championship match.
In addition to the runner-up finish, Illinois captured its fifth-straight Big Ten championship with a nine-stroke victory over Minnesota and won the first NCAA Regional championship in program history with a three-stroke victory over host Arkansas at the Fayetteville Regional. It marked Illinois’ eighth top-25 finish at the NCAA Championships in Small’s 13 years at the helm. In all, the Illini won six tournaments in 2012-13, second-most in school history.
Small has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year a conference-record six times in his career (2002, ‘09, ‘10, ‘11, ‘12, ‘13) after taking home the top honor for the fifth year in a row in 2013. He also has been named Midwest Regional Coach of the Year five times in his career (2003, ‘09, ‘10, ‘11, ‘13), including three of the past four seasons. Under his direction, Illinois athletes have won 12 PING All-America honors and 26 All-Big Ten accolades.
Small’s players also have had academic success and captured Big Ten Medal of Honor awards with Scott Langley in 2011 and Luke Guthrie in 2012. Additionally, Illinois golfers have earned Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholar honors seven times.
An 18-year Class A member of the PGA of America, Small promotes the game through clinics and speeches to various organizations and charities. He also works to grow the game with juniors by conducting multiple summer camps each year. Small’s outreach includes the Illinois high school golf coaches, as well as junior high and high school students, Habitat Dare to Dream/Dream to Build, 100 Club of Kankakee County, the Boys and Girls Clubs and Kiwanis.
Small might be most well known for his outstanding playing exploits. He has competed in over 70 PGA Tour events, nine PGA Championships and three US Opens. Additionally, he was a two-time winner on the Web.com Tour. Small finished as low PGA Professional at both the 2007 and 2011 PGA Championships. On three occasions he was named PGA of America National Professional of the Year (2006, ‘07, ‘10) and thrice claimed the PGA Professional National Championship (2005, ‘09, ‘10). Small has also represented the United States in five PGA Cup matches. A 10-time Illinois PGA Champion and four-time Illinois Open Champion, Small was recently inducted to the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame.
Small follows in the footsteps of past Labron Harris Award recipients Jay Hardwick (Virginia Tech/Middle Atlantic PGA Section), Devon Brouse (Purdue/Indiana PGA Section), the late Rod Myers (Duke/Carolina PGA Section), Herb Page (Kent State/Northern Ohio PGA Section), Jim Brown (Ohio State/Southern Ohio PGA Section), Pat Owen (U.S. Naval Academy/Middle Atlantic PGA Section), Rick Pohle (Williams College/ Northeastern New York PGA Section), John Bermel (Northern Iowa/Iowa PGA Section) and Pat Goss (Northwestern University/Illinois PGA Section).