Small, Biancalana earn spots in next year's Senior PGA Championship
Mike Small considers himself a golf coach first and a player second, but he proved again how good a player he can be in qualifying for another major championship last week.
The University of Illinois men's coach was free to compete after his Illini concluded the 2021 portion of their season with a strong runner-up finish in the Isleworth Invitational in Florida, an event that saw Illini sophomore Piercen Hunt win the individual title. Only No. 3-ranked Arizona State could beat the improving Illini at Isleworth.
A few days later Small and eight Illinois PGA members competed in the 33rd PGA Professionals Championship in Port St. Lucie, Fla., a competition that sends the top 35 to the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores, in Benton Harbor, Mich., next May.
Small finished solo third, one shot out of a playoff, when the 72-hole event wrapped up on Sunday and Roy Biancalana, teaching pro at Blackberry Oaks in Bristol, tied for 29th so the IPGA will have two of its best players in the national event next spring.
Tour Edge rewarded: Batavia-based club manufacturer Tour Edge has raised its profile by signing top players on PGA Tour Champions the last few years, but that payoff reached new heights last Sunday when Bernhard Langer became the oldest player to win on the 50-and-and-older circuit.
Langer, who joined the Tour Edge staff this year, won the Dominican Energy Classic in Richmond, Va., at age 64. It was his 42nd Champions Tour victory but first since March of 2000. The win came in the first of the Champions Tour's three season-ending playoff series events. The second is next week -- the TimberTech Championship in Langer's hometown of Boca Raton, Fla.
Two other Tour Edge players, Tim Petrovic and Ken Duke, also finished in the top five at the first playoff event. The series ends with the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in November.
Here and there: Arlington Heights' Doug Ghim, a rookie on the PGA Tour in the 2020-21 season, earned a spot in the 78-player Zozo Championship in Japan last week and tied for 66th place after a disappointing 74-73 finish on the weekend. ... Northbrook's Nick Hardy, who earned $86,000 for making the cut in his first two events as a PGA Tour member, returns to action in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship this week. Luke Donald and Northwestern alum Dylan Wu are also in the field. ... The Illinois Open champions of the last two years -- Aurora's Bryce Emory and Wheaton's Tee-K Kelly -- have reached the final stage of the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying. The finals are Nov. 4-7 in Savannah Ga., and Illinois alum Michael Feagles will also be in the field. ... A staff shake-up at the John Deere Classic has tournament director Clair Peterson moving up to executive director and Andrew Lehman assuming the tournament director's role. Lehman had been the assistant tournament director. ... The Chicago District Golf Association has named Nick Tenuda of Mount Prospect as its Player of the Year and Frankfort's Mark Small (no relation to the Illini coach) as Senior Player of the Year.
• Illinois Golf Hall of Famer Len Ziehm is on the "Golfers on Golf Radio 820" show at 4 p.m. Saturdays. He co-hosts the "Ziehm & Spears Golf Podcast Series" on social media. Past columns are at lenziehmongolf.com.