While the true physical colors of the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame are observed to be brown woodgrained trim on the walls and white marble flooring, come October 25 when the class of 2013 will be inducted into the state’s golfing hall of fame in Glenview, IL, the colors will sentimentally take on new hues of ‘gold and black’, ‘blue and gold’, and ‘orange and blue’ — alma mater colors of this year’s three inductees. Notable players Jay Haas, Bob Harris and Mike Small are the members of the 15th class of inductees to be enshrined in the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame.
Jay Haas, age 59, was born in St. Louis, MO, but grew up in nearby Belleville, IL., where he began playing golf at a young age. The Haas family is a distinguished family of golfers which include his uncle, 1968 Masters winner and fellow Illinois Golf Hall of Fame Member, Bob Goalby, and his son, Bill, winner of five PGA Tour tournaments, including the 2011 Tour Championship and FedEx Cup; Jay’s eldest son, Jay Jr., brother Jerry, and brother-in-law Dillard Pruitt have also played on the PGA Tour. After graduating from Belleville West High School in 1972, where he was the Illinois State High School champion his junior year, Haas went on to Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, where he competed on the golf team and was named to the NCAA All-America team four consecutive years (1973-1976). Haas turned professional in 1976, competing on the PGA Tour though 2004, split time between the Champions Tour and PGA Tour in 2005, and continues today on the Champions Tour. Haas has won nine times on the PGA Tour, and has amassed 16 tournament victories on the Champions Tour. Jay has competed in the Ryder Cup three times (1983, 1995, 2004), played in the Presidents Cup twice (1994, 2003) and was an assistant captain on the 2009 and 2011 Presidents Cup teams. His impressive 592 career cuts made remain a PGA Tour record.
Born in 1929, now eighty-four year old California-raised, Bob Harris, waited 25 years before arriving in the state where he would make his greatest impact in the world of golf. In 1954 Harris moved from San Jose, CA to Chicago, IL and was hired as an assistant golf professional at Edgewater Golf Club. Following a short tenure at Edgewater, he earned his membership into the PGA of America and moved on to become an assistant at Sunset Ridge Country Club in Northfield, IL. He was named the PGA head golf professional at Sunset Ridge in 1958, a position he held for the next 17 years. During his time in Illinois, Harris amassed an impressive playing resume. He won the Illinois PGA Match Play Championship a record six consecutive times (1958-1963), the Illinois PGA Championship twice (1959, 1961), the Illinois Open Championship twice (1955, 1956) and many local stroke play competitions; at one point in his career, Bob held nine scoring records at golf courses spread across the Chicagoland area. Then, in 1972, when Sunset Ridge CC was host to the Western Open, Harris not only played in the event but brilliantly fulfilled the countless responsibilities as the tournament’s host golf professional.
Outside of Illinois, and in the national limelight, Harris competed in The Masters twice (1956, 1961), the U.S. Open seven times (1949, 1955, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1968) and the PGA Championship three times (1959-1961). In 1948, in his sophomore year at San Jose University, Bob’s team won the NCAA team championship, and Harris was the NCAA individual champion. When driving range pro Jack Fleck stunned the golf world in 1955, pulling off what many believe is the greatest upset in the history of the game by tying Ben Hogan on the final hole in regulation and defeating him in a 18-hole playoff the following day, Bob Harris had the closest view possible — being paired with Ben Hogan in the 36-hole final round.
‘Orange and blue through and through’, Mike Small was born in Aurora, grew up and attended high school in Danville and graduated from U of I in Champaign. Whether being regarded as player, teammate, or coach, ‘Mike Small’ and ‘golf success’ always come together. While at the University of Illinois, men’s golf teammates Mike Small and Steve Stricker led the team to the 1988 Big Ten Championship; Stricker was individual Big Ten champion while Small finished second. Small turned professional in 1990, competing in mini-tours across the country. In 1996, he became a member of the Nike Tour. The following season, Small won the Monterey Open and Cleveland Open and finished in the top 15 in earnings on the Nike Tour, which earned him his PGA Tour card for the 1998 season.
Traveling across the country for a couple years, Small fought the good fight against the world’s best golfers on the PGA Tour, but then decided that a permanent home-base in his home state was more to his liking and Mike returned to the University of Illinois accepting the men’s head golf coach position. Under his leadership, the Fighting Illini have become a national powerhouse. Most recently his 2013 squad finished second in the NCAA national tournament with their only loss coming to Alabama in the championship match. During his tenure, the team has captured five Big Ten titles (2009-2013) and competed in eight NCAA National Championships (2002, 2003, 2008-2013). Small has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year six times (2002, 2009-2013).
As a competitive golfer, Mike has captured the Illinois PGA Championship a record nine times (2001, 2003-2010), the Illinois Open Championship four times (2003, 2005-2007) and the 2007 Illinois PGA Match Play Championship. He is the only person in the history of the Illinois PGA to win both the Illinois PGA Championship and Illinois Open Championship in the same year – a feat he accomplished four times. In 2007, he won the first three of the four Illinois PGA major championships. Nationally, Small has won the PGA Professional National Championship three times (2005, 2009, 2010). He has been honored as the PGA of America Player of the Year three times (2006, 2007, 2010) and is a four-time member of the United States PGA Cup team. He has competed in eight PGA Championships, making the cut three times (2005, 2007, 2011) and played in three U.S. Open Championships. He finished as the low club professional in the PGA Championship in 2007 and 2011. Small is the only member of the Illinois PGA to win the PGA Professional National Championship.
Mike’s competitive achievements and honorary recognitions are at a truly unsurpassed level; his victory total is tops in the 97 year history of the Illinois PGA and is considered by many to be the greatest golfer the state of Illinois has ever produced.
Gather up your set of crayons and color this trio of golfers ‘famous’.