Mike Small Named Coach of the Year

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CHAMPAIGN (FightingIllini.com) - Fighting Illini Men's Golf Head Coach Mike Small was named Dave Williams National Head Coach of the Year presented by Golf Pride Grips on Monday, as announced by the Golf Coaches Association of American (GCAA) in conjunction with Golf Pride Grips. Small joins five other coaches around the nation who received this award, which is presented to six outstanding collegiate golf coaches each season. Golf Pride Grips will present the coaches with their awards during the Hall of Fame Banquet at the GCAA National Convention on December 7.

The 2014-15 season was a strong and steady season for the Illini, as Small would describe it. In his 15th year at the helm of the Fighting Illini Men's Golf program, Small led the team to its eighth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and third-straight NCAA Regional victory.

Ryan Jamison of Nova Southeastern (Division II), Steve Conley of Methodist (Division III), Mike Cook of Coastal Georgia (NAIA), Jamie Howell of Eastern Florida State (NJCAA Division I) and Andy Walker of South Mountain (NJCAA Division II) also earned coach of the year honors for 2015. Golf Pride Grips Region and District Coaches of the Year were also named, and Small was recognized as the Division I Midwest Region Golf Pride Grips Coach of the Year.

The Illini brought a school-record eight tournament titles back to Champaign during the 2014-15 season, and Small guided each one of his top five players to one or more individual titles throughout the year. The Illini tallied eight individual wins in seven tournaments this season. The last time the Illini saw individuals take medalist honors in six or more tournaments was the 1987-89 campaign, when Small was a member of the team himself.

Under Small's direction, senior Brian Campbell earned his second NCAA Regional medal while also guiding the team to its third-straight NCAA Championship. The win came following Illinois' 13th Big Ten Championship title. Small's squad got off to a 32-stroke lead at the conference tournament, taking home its seventh trophy in the last eight seasons. Freshman Nick Hardy became Illinois' 17th Individual Big Ten medalist, marking the fifth consecutive season that Small's team has taken home individual medalist honors at the conference Championship. Illinois is only the fourth school in Big Ten history to have five consecutive medalists.

Small was named Big Ten Coach of the Year this season, the seventh time in his career that he has earned conference coach of the year honors. His squad swept each of the individual honors for the second time under his direction, as junior Thomas Detry was named Big Ten Player of the year and freshman Nick Hardy earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year recognition. Small's entire starting five earned All-Big Ten recognition this season as well.

Ranked at No. 4 in the country (Golfweek/Sagarin) heading into the program's 22nd NCAA Championship appearance, Small led his Illini to a No. 1 seed heading into the match play portion of the championships. Under Small's guidance, the Illini have qualified for match play in each of the last three seasons. Despite fighting rainy conditions, junior Thomas Detry finished third individually at the Championships. Small has guided two Illini to top finishes at the NCAA Championships, Thomas Pieters took the title in 2012 and Scott Langley earned a top finish in 2010.

During his tenure with the Illini, Small has coached 10 All-Americans to 16 laurels, and he has seen his team win 37 All-Big Ten honors. Off the course, Small has guided his Illini to 41 Academic All-Big Ten nods as well. In addition to his seven Big Ten Coach of the Year awards, Small is a six-time NCAA Regional Coach of the year.

The Dave Williams National Coach of the Year Award is presented, once again, by Golf Pride Grips. For over six decades, Golf Pride has been the global leader in golf grip innovation and technology, from the invention of the slip-on grip to groundbreaking advancements in cord with the new Brushed Cotton Technology (BCT®) to the introduction of the hybrid category of grips. Today, Golf Pride® has laid claim to more major wins than any other grip company. More than 80% of Tour professionals choose to play our grips and not one is paid to do so. And in this age of multi-million dollar endorsement deals, that's the strongest endorsement of all.

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