FRENCH LICK, Ind. (AP) — Mike Small won the PGA Professional National Championship for the record-trying third time, birdieing three of the final five holes Wednesday for a three-stroke victory over Sonny Skinner.
Small, the University of Illinois men's coach, closed with a 1-over 73 on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort to finish at 8 under. Successfully defending his title, Small matched the tournament victory record set by Larry Gilbert (1981, '82 and '91).
"I tried to draw from strength and not weakness," said Small, also the 2005 champion. "I was just trying to survive. ... I was leaking oil, but I got through it and finished strong. That gives me a lot of satisfaction."
Small won after nearly withdrawing Saturday because of elbow tendinitis.
"I was very concerned," he said. "I had to change my swing and it actually helped me."
Skinner, the PGA teaching pro at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, Ga., finished with a 71. Mark Sheftic, the teaching pro at Merion in Ardmore, Pa., closed with a 70 to finish third at 3 under, and Danny Balin of Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich, Conn., was fourth at 2 under after a 75. The top 20 finishers earned spots in the PGA Championship on Aug. 12-15 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
The 44-year-old Small, who earned $75,000, became the third player to win two straight years, joining Gilbert and Roger Watson (1974-75).
"This never gets old," Small said.
Small, four strokes ahead after the third round, bogeyed three of his first four holes and had a two-stroke lead over Skinner at the turn.
"The course was set up brutal," Small said. "I was shaky from the first hole."
A bogey on the 11th hole dropped Small into a tie with Skinner at 5 under, and they were both 6 under with three holes remaining.
Small broke the tie on the 215-yard 16th, nearly acing the par 3 to set up a birdie, while Skinner made a bogey to drop two strokes back.
Small also birdied the par-4 17th.