Small fades, but still picks up his biggest tourney paycheck

Illinois men’s coach Mike Small, who started the day tied for fifth, was no threat for the title in Sunday’s final round of the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Exmoor, but there was a bright side.

Small picked up his biggest check on either the PGA Tour or PGA Tour champions. He earned $67,200 for finishing in a tie for 10th place. His biggest previous paycheck was $57,200 when he tied for ninth at the 1998 RBC Canadian Open on the PGA Tour.

Paired for the second straight day with Bernhard Langer, Small made birdie on the first hole, but cooled off after that. He posted a 1-under-par 71 and finished the tournament at 15-under 273.

With three top-10s in four starts on PGA Tour Champions, Small has one more event on the circuit before his usual visits to the Illinois Open and Illinois PGA Championship. He is assured a berth in the 3M tourney in Minnesota Aug. 3-5.

Hale and hardy

Hale Irwin, who has titles in three tournaments played on Chicago courses – the Western Open, U.S. Open and Ameritech Senior Open – was far down the leaderboard on Sunday but he had a notable accomplishment.

Irwin shot his age (73) on Thursday and bettered his age on Saturday (70) and Sunday (72). He has shot or bettered his age 37 times on PGA Tour Champions and this marks the ninth consecutive season he’s accomplished that feat. He did it for the first time at the 2010 AT&T Championship when he was 65.

Farewell for awhile

Sunday’s round concluded the first Champions Tour major in the Chicago area since Graham Marsh won the U.S. Senior Open at Olympia Fields in 1997. Sunday’s round also brought an end to the last major on any tour scheduled at a Chicago area course.

PGA Tour Champions hasn’t announced its schedule for next season but executive director Greg McLaughlin, former tournament director of the Western Open, said the closest the circuit will come to Chicago is South Bend. The U.S. Senior Open will be played at the Warren Course there.

Though the open-to-the-public tournament festivities are over, the Champions Tour experience will continue one more day at Exmoor. A private outing, involving 88 players, is scheduled there today.

Being charitable

Constellation, as part of its sponsorship of the tournament, will provide $500,000 in grants to five Chicago charities that focus on education, youth development and affordable housing.

The charities are headed by the Evans Scholars Foundation, the Western Golf Association’s arm that provides scholarships for deserving caddies. Other beneficiaries are the Big Shoulders Fund, which supports inner-city Chicago schools; Girls in the Game, Habitat for Humanity Chicago and Special Olympics Chicago.

Bits and pieces

Jerry Kelly and Duffy Waldorf shot the best rounds on Sunday – 8-under-par 64s. Kelly made eight birdies to climb into a tie for fourth place. Kelly and Miguel Angel Jimenez, who tied for 10th, are the only players with top-10 finishes in each of the first four Champions majors this season.

The local hopes struggled. Barrington product Gary Hallberg, who was inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame last year, finished at 7-under and in a tie for 32nd and Jeff Sluman was 2-under and in a tie for 57th.

Sixty of the 76 finishers bettered par. There were two withdrawals – John Daly and Fred Funk.