One of the most popular golf instructors in the country, Laird Small has been on every GOLF Magazine list of the nation's "Top 100 Teachers in America" since 1985 and was recognized by Golf Digest on its "Top 50 Teachers in America," since 2002. Beginning his 19th year at Pebble Beach, Calif., the 48-year-old Small has been a PGA member since 1988 and director since 1996 of the Pebble Beach Golf Academy. Small was named the 1996 Northern California PGA Teacher of the Year Award and the 1997 Junior Teacher of the Year, an honor by the AT&T Pebble Beach Junior Golf Association.
The son of a U.S. Army engineer, Small was born in Frankfurt, Germany. His family moved to Mexico, before settling on the Monterey (Calif.) Peninsula five years later. Small said the sight of golf carts traveling to course on the famed golf-rich peninsula heightened his enthusiasm for the game. He began learning the game as a caddie. He went on to attend San Jose State University, graduating in 1977 with a degree in recreation and leisure studies, and a minor in Spanish and photography. He turned professional that year, and through 1980 was an assistant professional at Fort Ord Golf Course. Small attempted to compete as a Tour professional before becoming head professional and later director of golf at Quail Lodge Golf & Country Club in Carmel Valley, Calif. From 1987 through October 1996, Small was head professional and manager of in Pebble Beach. He remained at that post until opening the .
The PGA's 2003 National Award Winners "I look at the past recipients of this award and see how they set such a nice example," said Small. "I see how they cared about their students and how indebted I am to many of them who took me under their wing and helped me. I am indebted to them to be able to give back to the game."
Small said the PGA Teacher of the Year Award is "The U.S. Open or PGA Championship of your field. I feel such an honor to be considered." The work of a teacher continues in any endeavor, and Small put the progress into perspective. "I think as an industry we have made great strides to help people learn to swing the club and hit the ball," said Small, "but we have a way to go to show people how to play the game. And, that follows our Association's efforts to grow the game. The responsibility is on our shoulders to grow the game."
Small was instrumental in the development of the AT&T Pebble Beach Junior Golf Association. The program, in which he also served as president, hosts 1,600 juniors year-round, while offering an introduction to the game, involvement in golf clinics, scholarship programs and tournament opportunities.
In 1993, Small authored GolfCordz the Power Source, an exercise physiology book designed to strengthen, condition and stretch golf muscle. He is a frequent contributor to GOLF, Golf Tips Magazine and Golf Digest. He is a frequent guest of The Golf Channel's Golf Academy Live, and is a regular instructor on the Northern California PGA's televised Toyota Team Challenge Matches.
"I have been fortunate to have had friendships with great professionals like Jim Flick and Rick Martino, who have both given me great advice," said Small. "The world comes to Pebble Beach and you can't help but see the enthusiasm everyone has for both playing and learning the game."
A committee member of the 2000 and 2002 PGA Teaching & Coaching Summits, Small's students have included Tour professional Kirk Tripplet, Bob Wolcott, Tom Sullivan, television talk show host/entertainer Oprah Winfrey, former major league baseball pitcher Orel Hershiser, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, NFL football coaching legend Bill Walsh, former NBA star Julius Erving and amateur Wandra Liang, the youngest woman to qualify for the San Francisco City Amateur. Small and his wife, Honor, are the parents of two boys: Riley, 8 and Emmett, 6.