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updated: 8/24/2011 3:15 PM

Small ready to make it 9 Illinois PGA titles in a row

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  • Mike Small will try to win his ninth consecutive Illinois PGA title next week when it returns to Medinah Country Club's No. 1 course. Small hasn't lost the IPGA Championship since 2002.

      Mike Small will try to win his ninth consecutive Illinois PGA title next week when it returns to Medinah Country Club's No. 1 course. Small hasn't lost the IPGA Championship since 2002.
    Associated Press

  • Mike Small hits a drive on the 10th hole during the first round of the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga. Next week Small returns to defend his Illinois PGA title, which he has won eight straight years.

      Mike Small hits a drive on the 10th hole during the first round of the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga. Next week Small returns to defend his Illinois PGA title, which he has won eight straight years.
    Associated Press

  • Mike Small, left, posed with PGA Chamionship winner Keegan Bradley at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga. Small was the only club pro to make the cut.

      Mike Small, left, posed with PGA Chamionship winner Keegan Bradley at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga. Small was the only club pro to make the cut.
    Associated Press

 
 

Mike Small has owned the Illinois PGA Championship, winning the title eight straight times and nine times in the last 10 years.

He'll go for nine in a row starting Monday at Medinah Country Club's No. 1 course when the tourney is staged for the 89th time.

Small appeared vulnerable earlier this summer. His game wasn't sharp after a tie for 13th finish at the Illinois Open and another missed cut in the Reno-Tahoe Open on the PGA Tour. He even considered skipping the PGA Cup, a team event matching the best club professionals from the U.S. and Great Britain in part because of sub-par play.

Those problems were corrected, as Small regained his old form at the PGA Championship two weeks ago in Atlanta. Competing in his 10th major championship, the University of Illinois men's coach was the only club pro to survive the 36-hole against the world's best players.

That turnaround doesn't bode well for the chances of the other 155 starters at Medinah. They'll play 18 holes Monday and Tuesday before the field is cut to the low 60 and ties for the final round on Aug. 31.

"I went to Reno and spent six-seven days working on my game, and I hit the ball better than I have all year," said Small. "It's amazing what a little time, effort and thought-processing will do for you."

Small hasn't been beaten in the IPGA Championship since 2002, when Gary Groh, the head pro at Bob O'Link in Highland Park, beat him in a playoff for the title at Kemper Lakes in Kildeer.

Last year Small set tournament records with an 11-stroke victory margin and 200 winning total for 54 holes at Olympia Fields.

"The Illinois PGA is a big deal, whether I win or lose," said Small. "I'd like to keep the run going, but it's got to end some day."

While getting his Illini ready for the fall season, Small will also make his fourth appearance for the U.S. in the PGA Cup matches, to be held Sept. 16-18 at Corde Valle in St. Martin, Calif.

Super Seniors event set

Dennis Johnsen, the veteran head pro at Pine Meadow in Mundelein, was unsuccessful in pushing the Illinois PGA to create a tournament for players 65 and older last year so Johnsen decided to start the event himself. The inaugural Titleist Illinois Super Seniors Open will be staged at Pine Meadow on Sept. 28.

Both pros and amateurs are eligible, and there'll be three age-group divisions: 65-69, 70-74, and 75 and older. The course will be set up at 6,171 yards and entrants must have a handicap of 14 or less. Entry fee is $125, and the deadline is Sept. 21 or whenever 100 entries are received.

"We added a Super Seniors (division) to our senior (IPGA) events, but this is a Super Seniors state championship,'' said Johnsen, who hopes both the IPGA and Chicago District Golf Association will be involved next year. For now, it's a Jemsek Golf project.

Ryder Cup preview on tap

"Countdown to the Ryder Cup: An evening with the Captains" has been scheduled for Sept. 26 at the Chicago Theater.

Davis Love III of the U.S. Team and Jose Maria Olazabal of Europe will be on hand for the first major preview of next year's event on Medinah's No. 3 course. The Countdown falls a year before the Ryder Cup, scheduled for Sept. 25-30, 2012.

Tickets, priced at $55, are available at the theater's box office and Ticketmaster.com.

Did you know?

Everett Lockenvitz has been added to the professionals staff at Cantigny in Wheaton. He'll lead the custom club fitting operation. … The Dave Pelz short game clinics will be conducted at Indian Lakes in Bloomingdale from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3. … A regional event in the Els for Autism Challenge will be held on Cog Hill's Dubsdread course in Lemont on Monday. It's one of 30 regionals feeding into the Oct. 23-24 finals in Las Vegas, which will be hosted by recently-elected Hall of Famer Ernie Els. … Ethan Tracy, who won the Western Amateur at North Shore Country Club in Glenview earlier this month, isn't in this week's U.S. Amateur at Wisconsin's Erin Hills course. Tracy couldn't get in via the nation-wide qualifying rounds and the U.S. Golf Assn. doesn't grant an exemption to the Western Am winner. … Matt Slowinski, of Glen Oak in Glen Ellyn, is the Illinois PGA's assistants champion. He covered 36 holes at Elgin Country Club in 8-under par 136 to get the win last week. … The Weekly Challenge Tour visits Chalet Hills in Cary on Saturday.

• Len Ziehm's golf column appears Wednesdays in the Daily Herald. To contact him, visit lenziehmongolf.com.

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