Allan Small (1951-)

Allan Small (1951-)

Foremost through all the victories, the honors and the achievements, Allan Small of Fairmount, the only player to win the NJSGA Amateur, Mid-Amateur and Senior Amateur championships, is a people person.

“I can look back on the tournaments and wins and accomplishments and all this crystal and silver stuff, I call it, but the most important thing to me is the relationships, and the things I’ve been able to accomplish on the administrative side with the NJSGA, the Met and the First Tee.

“All those relationships have been fantastic, including some of the people I’ve been able to introduce to the game. Whenever I go around and see guys in different tournaments, it’s a lot of fun.

“Going to the practice tee at events is fun. I’ve had a memory and relationship with almost each and everyone there. There’s a special bond that we share. We battled with each other, yet we were on teams together representing the NJSGA, and that was really neat stuff.”

Small is one of five people included in the 2020 NJSGA Hall of Fame Class.  His crowning achievement came in the 2004 NJSGA Amateur at Spring Brook, leading to the NJSGA Player of the Year honor that season. That triumph was bookended by victories in the NJSGA Mid-Amateur in 1986 at Colonia and again in 2006 at Galloway National. Small has also won five Senior Amateurs (2008, ’09, ’11, 12, ’13).

Besides his playing career, Small was also a golf coach at Seton Hall University from 1990-96, won a Coach of the Year award, and has fond memories of that experience.

“Coaching those young guys at Seton Hall, gave me the most thrill. Every now and then I get a text from an ex-player. To me, that feels really good,” he said.

Small’s other achievements, besides eight NJSGA titles, are two MGA Senior Amateur championships (2009, 2017). He has been a dedicated member of the NJSGA Compher Cup and Stoddard Trophy teams, appearing a total of 56 times in those events. He has also represented New Jersey three times in the USGA Men’s State Team Championship.

Small twice reached the semifinals of the Met Amateur, and twice more made the quarterfinals. He has seven top-five finishes in the MGA Ike (stroke play) Championship and he has competed on nine MGA International Teams – as well as the 1997 International Team Championship in Peru. He has played in 23 USGA championships.

An electrician by trade, Small’s love for golf knows no bounds. He has served as president of the MGA, where he was also a long-time tournament and rules official.

It all started for Small at age seven, when he would sneak through a hole in a fence at Cedar Hill Country Club in Livingston, across the street from his family home. He remembers the beauty of the course. He also remembered that he hunted down lost golf balls and sold them back to members.

About five years later, Small had the opportunity to play nine holes with Cedar Hill head professional Ken Burnett thanks to a neighbor who knew him. Burnett gave the youngster a list of tips to help him improve. Playing every evening in the summer after working in his dad’s electrical business, Small broke 70 for the first time at age 15.

He became the No. 1 player and team captain at Livingston High School, where the 6-foot-8 athlete also played basketball.  He matriculated to Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., and continued to excel in golf. He became the top player and captain and told himself he would pursue a professional career if he could win the conference championship, but he finished second.

Before senior year, Allan married his high school sweetheart, Patti, and five years later, the Smalls were raising a family that included three children.

“I came home from college and decided to become an electrician. I had worked part time with my dad since I was 11 years old. My dad moved down the Shore and I decided to make it my full-time business. For a long time, I was only playing about five rounds of golf per year.”

At age 30, in 1981, Small joined Fairmount Country Club with a handicap of 5. Two years later, he played in his first NJSGA Amateur Championship and shot a 70 to take the first-round lead. Future Hall of Famer and six-time Amateur champion Jeff Thomas, who won in 1981, and would win that year (1983), was quoted in a newspaper article asking “What the hell is an Al Small?”

“I never forgot that, but I did finish somewhere near the Top 20. But it gave me a taste. I wanted to get back into competitive golf.”

Three years later, Small won the 1986 Mid-Amateur Championship. He never missed being a part of a Compher Cup or Stoddard Trophy team for the next 28 years.

There were many victories over the next two decades, but none stands out more than his victory in the 2004 NJSGA Amateur at Spring Brook Country Club in Morristown.

“It took me until I was 53 years old and had both of my knees replaced. I also had to do it in a four-hole playoff over Tyler Hall.” Hall later turned professional and went on to win two NJSGA Open Championships and one Met Open.

“On the second playoff hole, I birdied and Tyler knocked one in from off green. I drove into a hazard on the next hole and ended up with a bogey. On the par- 3 ninth hole, I made the greatest up and down of my life, so we were tied going into the 10th hole, another par 3.

“My tee shot was 20 feet past the hole. Tyler chipped to five feet. I rolled it down there in two putts for a par and he missed his par putt. Bob Housen (NJSGA Hall of Famer) was certainly my mentor and told me I would win an Amateur.

“I’d watch him, how he took care of business, how he focused and managed his game and the golf course, and how he grinded. I thought of him when I won the Amateur.”

“Allan represents the best in golf and the best in life. He is the antithesis of the statement that nice guys finish last,” said Housen, a six-time winner of the NJSGA Amateur. “There is no nicer person than Allan and he did something in New Jersey golf that will never be repeated, winning the State Amateur Championship just six months after having both knees replaced, walking all those holes and beating all those great college players. That was extraordinary, but Allan is a special person.

“Allan and his wife Patti have been an extraordinary team all these years. Allan is a husband, a father and a friend to all, and most importantly he’s a giver, having donated a lot of his time as a college coach and as president of the Met. He is so well deserving of a place in the NJSGA Hall of Fame,” Housen added.

Five years after his triumph in the NJSGA Amateur Championship, Small began his domination of the NJSGA Senior Amateur. He went onto win five times in six seasons, with victories in 2008, ’09, ’11, ’12 and ’13.

“I felt when I became a senior, I was the best in the state. I felt if my short game was on, I should win. That was a great stretch for me there, making the U.S. Senior Amateur six times and twice winning the Met Senior Amateur.”

The Met Senior Amateur triumph in 2017, at age 66, was particularly memorable. It happened at Fairmount, Small’s home club.

“Coming down the stretch, it was between myself, George Zahringer and Jay Blumenfeld. Those two were in the group in front of me and I didn’t know how I stood until I was on the 18th tee. I found out I had a one-stroke lead. I hit a nice drive, a nice five iron to the green and I ended up winning by two.”

Small has also relished golf trips overseas. He has played in nine MGA international matches, which he called “a thrill.” He is a member of the R&A and plans to go to Scotland each year for the autumn board meeting.

Currently, Small is a resident of Savannah, Ga., and was named the Georgia State Golf Association’s Super Senior Player of the Year in 2018. He continues to play competitively in both Georgia and the New Jersey regions.

He is equally happy to have been named the new golf coach at Savannah Country Day, one of the state’s top prep schools.

 “I still love competing, working out each day and working on my game. But I really feel my greatest joy in life is spent giving back to this great game, a game that has given me more than a little boy climbing through a hole in the fence could have ever imagined.”

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