With his victory in the NJSGA Senior Amateur Championship at Crestmont Country Club in August, Allan Small of Fairmount Country Club became the first golfer in NJSGA history to win the NJSGA Amateur Championship, Mid-Amateur Championship and Senior Amateur Championship. “I am just honored to play in NJSGA events will all you guys,” Small said in accepting the championship trophy. Indeed, he has been on the competitive scene for a long time. He first won the Mid-Amateur in 1986 and again in 2006, and won the State Amateur in 2004 at Spring Brook. Completing the NJSGA “Amateur Slam” is a big accomplishment for the 56 year-old golfer, whose career has been plagued by lingering injuries.
“I am fortunate to be playing at this level still,” he said after recounting his physical ailments. In 2002, Small underwent back surgery and in late 2003 he had both knees replaced. Keeping healthy and fit has been a challenge for Small ever since, especially considering his 6’7” frame. These days, he has to work that much harder to stay loose and keep the core golf muscles strong. He uses the off-season to focus on his physical training with intensive gym workouts, and then just tries to stay loose during the golf season. His off-season training consists of five trips per week to the gym and several weekends in South Carolina breaking in his swing. By the time the season starts in New Jersey in April, he’s ready to go and focuses on his tournament schedule along with light workouts.
Everything came together for Small during Senior Amateur week. His two-day total of 142 (70-72) was good for a six stroke victory on the 6,715 yard, par 72 Crestmont course. His opening round of 70 was one of only three sub-par rounds shot in the tournament, and made him the player to beat.
Finishing behind Small in a tie for second were Vic Gerard of Eagle Oaks G.C. (76-72) and Tim Macken of the Knoll C.C. (74-74). Ron Vannelli of Metuchen G. & C.C. finished in fourth (78-71) and defending champion Peter Keller, Sr. of Canoe Brook C.C. finished in a tie for fifth with Ray Marchuk of Plainfield C.C. (both with 76-76).
The Senior Amateur is for players 55 years of age and older. The Pre-Senior division allows players 50-54 to compete in the Championship. This division was won by Bert Kosup of the Ridge at Back Brook for the third time, with rounds of 71-75. Jon Tingley of Stanton Ridge G. & C.C. finished second (78-72) and Tom Hyland of Little Mill C.C. finished third (74-78) in the Pre-Senior division.
In the Super-Senior division for players 65 and older, the legendary Bob Housen of Manasquan River G.C. won with rounds of 79-79, edging out Alton Jones of Mendham G. & T.C. in a match of cards.
Crestmont played tough for the seniors this week. It can be described as a sneaky long course, and the Donald Ross greens, with their massive size and dramatic undulations, always present a challenge, especially to those unfamiliar with them. It usually takes a fair amount of local knowledge to succeed at Crestmont. With trees having been removed over the recent past, the course stands out even more as a gem from the Golden Age of course design.
The Crestmont course certainly suited Allan Small’s game. “I had started swinging really well right around the State Open [in July],” Small recalled after his Senior Amateur triumph. “I just felt real good at Crestmont. We had the U.S. Senior Open qualifier there early in the summer, and I was low amateur in that, so I had a really good feel for the golf course. The combination of that and just feeling that I was hitting the ball real well let me think this is definitely a doable thing.”
Small was aware that no one had previously won the three State amateur championships and admitted, “It was sort of in the back of my mind as I was playing the event. To be able to win the three of them after the age of 50, after having my knees replaced, is way more than I thought I could have done. I’ve been pretty steady. 1983 was my first New Jersey Amateur, and I think I’ve missed only two Amateurs since then.”
Small added the Bergen County Amateur to his 2008 record, overcoming a very strong field from the Met area.
Over the years, he earned the NJSGA Player of the Year title in 2006, and has qualified for 17 USGA Championships. He twice reached the semifinals of the Met Amateur and twice made the quarterfinals. He posted seven top-five finishes in the Met stroke-play championship, known as the Ike. He represented New Jersey on the USGA State Team three times and on the Stoddard Trophy and Compher Cup teams nearly every year since 1985, including service as team captain.
He was a member of six MGA International Teams, and competed in the 1997 International Team Championship in Peru.
And those are just some of the highlights of Small’s enduring excellence as a career amateur. He also coached golf at Seton Hall University from 1992 through 1998 and was named Coach of the Year in 1993. He played golf at Guilford College in North Carolina, serving as team captain and earning recognition as most valuable player. Small and his wife of 36 years, Patti, have three children, Joshua, Jessica and Ashleigh, and two grandchildren with a third expected. Patti often can be seen on Allan’s bag at Met area tournaments.
Reflecting on his career, Small said, “I really love competitive golf, and I really love competing against the kids – almost as much as I love beating the kids. There’s just real joy in having these young bucks look at the gray-haired grandpa and say, ‘How the hell did you beat me?’ It’s one of the pleasures in golf fortunately you can still have.”
“I take great pride in playing good golf and being a good person and sharing the values of golf and the camaraderie of golf,” Small said. “I try to be to the young people like the Bob Housens and David Glenzes and Ed Whitmans have been there for me. Just being a good example to the younger golfers is what I’ve tried to do, and I’ve enjoyed that role.”
Small expects to have less time for competitive golf in the coming two years since he is scheduled to move up from vice president of the Metropolitan Golf Association to president on December 3. He has been a member of the Met Executive Committee for five years. “The vision, the motto of my presidency is going to be five words – Share the Game of Golf,” he emphasized. “One of the things that is so important to me being a New Jersey golfer and a New Jersey champion and cutting my teeth on New Jersey events is to make the relationship between the NJSGA and the MGA a friendly, working relationship with communication between us and camaraderie and more of a feeling of partnership than it is right now.”
“I’ve talked to Ben Del Vento [NJSGA president], and I’ve talked to John Murray [NJSGA vice president],” said Small, “and I think we have a verbal commitment. We just have to follow through and make sure we do the things we need to do, because in my opinion golf would only benefit by having a nice, great relationship between the two organizations.”
“Working together on The First Tee like we have has been helpful, but it’s really just a start on what we could do if we really put our heads together.”
There is no doubt that Small will bring to his organization role the same thoughtfulness, character and respect that he has brought to his playing career for so many years.
-Reprinted from NJSGA Golf, November 2008
By Fred Behringer and Rick Jenkins