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Mills Wins US Public Links Championship

Mills Wins US Public Links Championship

July 2, 2011

CLEMSON, SC – Clemson junior Corbin Mills made a four-foot par putt on the 37th hole to defeat Derek Ernst of Clovis, CA and the UNLV golf team to win the United States Public Links Championship at the Old Macdonald Course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, OR.

Mills won the 36-hole stroke play qualifier, then won six matches to capture the championship. He is the first golfer to win both the stroke play qualifier and the match play championship in the same year since 2000 when former Clemson golfer D.J. Trahan did it. Trahan also won the championship match in 37 holes that year, as he defeated Bubba Dickerson. Trahan’s championship was also recorded in Oregon (Portland). Overall, Mills is just the seventh player to win both the stroke play and the match play in the same year.

Mills is the third Clemson golfer to win the US Public Links. In addition to Trahan’s win in 2000, Kevin Johnson won the title in 1987. Ironically, Johnson lost the event in a 37 hole final the next year (1988). So four times a Clemson golfer has reached the championship match and it has been decided in 37 holes three times.

Mills victory brings with it a 10-year exemption to the United States Public Links Tournament, a two-year exemption into the field at the US Amateur, and a probable an invitation to the 2012 Masters.

“This was a big victory for Corbin,” said Clemson head Coach Larry Penley. “He had it in him. The biggest thing he did was improve his putting. He really improved his pace (in putting). That should give him confidence and our entire team confidence.

“To see him hang in there after losing five straight holes on the second 18 and lose the lead was impressive. He could have hung his head and packed it in. But he didn’t and he got the momentum back when he made that birdie on the 15th hole to tie the match. I am very proud of him.”

Mills was dominant in the event in many ways. He was the only golfer to shoot under par for the 3- hole stroke play qualifier on Monday and Tuesday with a three under par 138 score. In winning his six matches, he trailed for just seven of the 117 holes of match play and never trailed by more than one hole the entire week. He went 74 consecutive holes of match play without trailing at one point.

Mills won three of the first four holes on Saturday against Ernst, including the third and fourth holes with birdies. He won three of the final four holes of the first 18, including a birdie three on the 18th hole. Mills had a two-up lead when the players broke for lunch after 18 holes.

Mills increased his lead to four up after the 24th hole of the match and still had the four-up lead after the 26th hole. But, Ernst, the Mountain West Player of the Year the last two years, won five consecutive holes (9-13 on the second 18) to take a one-up lead. He hit his tee shot on the par three 242-yard 12th hole to within four inches, then hit his approach to two feet on the par four 13th.

When Ernst made the birdie on 13 it was the first time Mills had trailed in a match since the second hole of his Sweet 16 match with Talor Gooch, 74 holes earlier.

The two players halved the 14th hole, then Mills got some momentum back when he made a 20-foot birdie putt to win the par five 15th hole. Ernst won the 16th hole when Mills missed a six-foot par putt, but Mills squared the match on the 17th hole, the 35th hole of the match when Ernst hit the ball into a bunker on three consecutive shots. The two players halved the 36th hole.

Holes 14-18 were good to Mills all week. He won 14 holes and lost just four all week on those final five holes, including a 5-2 record against Ernst on Saturday.

Both players hit solid drives in the fairway on the 37th hole of the match, the first hole on the course. But Ernst hit his second shot short, leaving an 80-foot putt. He three-putted from that distance and Mills two putted from 40 feet to win the tournament.

It was quite a week for Mills who won the tournament despite an ear infection and “pink eye”.

“The birdie on 15 was big,” said Mills, who was playing in his first ever match play tournament. “That seemed to give me some momentum. I lost the 16th hole, but I made a good chip to have a chance at a par and then won the 17th hole. So, I got my confidence back.

“This was quite a week. The overall key was that I didn’t get ahead of myself. I just took it one match at a time, one hole at a time. I played within myself. I won a lot of holes with pars, including the deciding hole.”

Mills Match Play Results to the US Public Links Championship d. Greg O’Connor of Kennesaw State, 4 & 2 d. John Peterson of LSU, 1 up d. Talor Gooch of Oklahoma State, 4 & 2 d. John Vijarro of Oregon, 4 & 3 d. Harris English of Georgia, 5 & 3 d. Derek Ernst of UNLV, 37 holes

Interview With 2011 APL Champion Corbin MillsBy USGA

THE MODERATOR: I’d like to welcome Corbin Mills, the 2011 Amateur Public Links Champion. I’m sure that’s got a nice ring to it.Corbin Mills: It does. It’s unbelievable. I never thought I’d make it this far. You know, I started off bad. Even getting here wasn’t good. You know, God really blessed me. He really did.

Q. You came here with some health issues as well. You had an ear infection, some pink eye. Talk about what it was like to cope with those things and playing in these conditions?Corbin Mills: I didn’t really know what to do. I’m out here by myself. Didn’t know how to get any medicine or anything. I ended up getting a prescription called in, so that helped a lot. I feel a lot better.

Q. What was wrong?Corbin Mills: I had an ear infection and pink eye.

Q. Are those related or separate?Corbin Mills: Separate. I think I got the ear infection like two days before I came out here. Then on the plane ride here, my eye started leaking stuff. I didn’t know what it was. I couldn’t see, couldn’t hear out of my left ear. I still can’t hardly hear out of my left ear, but it’s good. It ended on a really good note.

Q. Which eye?Corbin Mills: My right eye.

Q. You could hear Augusta National, couldn’t you?Corbin Mills: I can hear that. It hasn’t sunk in all the way, but I think here shortly it will.

Q. What was last night for you? Texts, Tweets, Facebook, that kind of stuff?Corbin Mills: The past two or three days I’ve had so much support from back home. All of my friends, all of my family, they’re just so supportive. Everybody’s texting me. I’ve got a million texts and missed calls, everything right now. I got to catch that flight.

Q. You know, Clemson’s got a pretty good pedigree with players. D.J. won this thing 11 years ago, and Lucas won the Open a couple years ago. Where do you fall in this pecking order?Corbin Mills: It was like I’m getting close, you know. It’s something that I’ve wanted for a long time. I haven’t really won anything since before college, so I wanted my win to be big. A win’s a win, it’s great. But I really, really wanted to win a big, big tournament.

Q. Why do you think it was this week? What clicked out here? You come from South Carolina, and you don’t see courses like this at all.Corbin Mills: I don’t know what this is like. I’ve never played anything like it. It’s got to be a God thing. I get out here, and I almost didn’t make it out here. All this health stuff happened, but I kept plugging along. I had a really good game plan the entire week. And I stuck to it every day, every round, every match, and it kept working out for me.

Q. Can you talk about, that said, as things were going along today, the game plan looked a little bit shaky there?Corbin Mills: It did.

Q. Talk about what happened? You got up, but then you lost that lead.Corbin Mills: You know, he kind of changed the whole pace on me. He won a couple of holes, and you know, it really didn’t affect me the first couple of holes he won because he did the same thing in my morning match. I was up on him like 2 or 3. He won 9, 10, 11, something like that this morning. So I didn’t really let it bother me. But as soon as he started winning the holes, he started picking up the pace.

It took me until like 14 to realize, okay, his caddie’s running off the fairway. They’re just trucking up the fairway. I’ve got to slow this down. You know, he’s going to take full advantage of me if I don’t just stop.

So I told my caddie, I was like, listen, they’re trying to get to us. So I just, I started walking slow. I told my caddie to slow it down. Because the whole week my whole deal has been let’s play fast. Let’s get to the ball, hit it, completely regroup and slow down. I think I made a four footer for par on 14 to halve the hole, and the big win on 15, and then that really got the momentum going. I really realized, okay, you know, we can stop. We can get back into my game plan. I knew I had a chance.

Then I lose on 16, yeah, 16. And I still knew okay, par 5, anything could happen. So he hit it in the bunker, and I just took advantage of it.

Q. Talk about the first playoff hole. You guys struggled with it in the afternoon. It wasn’t an easy hole location. Can you take us through your mindset as you were going? You had the ball on the fairway, but from then on what you were thinking as you tried to play it?Corbin Mills: I knew that I was going to have to play aggressive with it before he hit a shot, and I wasn’t even paying attention to what he was doing. Once I realized he was trying to run it up and left it way short, I was like, okay, I can be a little more aggressive, but I don’t want to get it up on the top tier. He’s on the front of the green, anything can happen. But I’m not just going to throw it away.

Q. How does this change what you’re going to do the rest of the summer? Obviously to get you into the U.S. Amateur, but were you planning anymore bigger events?Corbin Mills: Well, I’m playing in the Players I think on Monday or Tuesday, and I think I’m going to stick to that commitment. I’m exhausted, about golfed out, but I told them a long time ago that I’d play in their event. So it’s going to be different.

Q. It’s a Walker Cup year, anything can happen.Corbin Mills: Yeah, anything can happen, exactly. I haven’t even thought that far. But, you know, it’s there.

Q. What do you think a week like this does for you? You said you hadn’t done much since high school. How do you think you’re going to change as a player?Corbin Mills: I don’t know how much I’m going to change as a player, but I’m going to open some people’s eyes. I think that, you know, everybody’s got to have that one big thing to kind of show everybody what they’re made of and what they’ve got, and I’ve been waiting a long time for it.

Q. Did you find something this week to ask about yourself?Corbin Mills: I found out a lot of stuff, yeah. A lot of stuff. I found out how to play golf.

Q. If you can play out hereCorbin Mills: If you can play out here, you can play anywhere, that’s for sure.

Q. Was there a particular moment either in the practice rounds or stroke play or qualifying where you went, I get this and you felt comfortable out there?Corbin Mills: I really was. I think it was the first day, the first practice round that I played. I kind of created just this way to play these golf courses and kind of stuck to it. It worked out, and I’ve fallen in love with link style golf.

Q. At the end you kind of seemed, not nonchalant, but a non-descript kind of reaction there. Was it relief, are you tired?Corbin Mills: Oh, I’m exhausted. I was waiting to collapse with four holes to play: My legs are killing me, my feet are killing me. I mean, it feels like I’ve had such a tough match with everybody, so I’m just mentally drained, physically drained.

Q. It’s a lot of golf you played in a short period of time. You went from your practice rounds to Monday, Tuesday’s 18 holes and then it is just crammed.Corbin Mills: Exactly. It’s not like okay, let’s go out and play golf. It’s like okay, let’s battle against the wind and stuff.

Q. You made the allusion a couple minutes ago to Augusta. What does this mean to you provided they’re likely to give you the invitation? Ben Martin, he finished runner up in the finals of the U.S. Am two years ago, or in ’09. I was a freshman coming in. He was a senior. I saw that and he was going to play Augusta when we’re like on Saturdays. It’s like, oh, man, you know. So it’s been one of those things that I really would like to do that while I’m still in school.

Q. You live close to Greenville. It’s not that far from Augusta.Corbin Mills: It’s not. Two and a half hours.

Q. Have you been to Augusta?Corbin Mills: I have. I’ve never played there.

Q. You’ve gone as a fan to watch?Corbin Mills: Yes.

Q. A Masters moment that sticks out in your mind?Corbin Mills: I’ve never been to a tournament round.

Q. Just a practice round?Corbin Mills: Just for the practice rounds.

Q. Okay. What was your impressions when you were on the property?Corbin Mills: Oh, it’s unbelievable. It is. It’s something else.

Q. Are you going to graduate?Corbin Mills: I hope so.

Q. Is that in your plans?Corbin Mills: It is.

Q. What is your major? What are you studying?Corbin Mills: Sociology.

Q. Same as [WAPL champion] Brianna [Do]. Does that help you as a golfer sometimes?Corbin Mills: I don’t it’s not as hard, so it kind of takes some relief off of school. But I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with it.

Q. What did you mean you had trouble getting here?Corbin Mills: Flight wise, my flight got cancelled on Wednesday, and I didn’t get to get out here. They somehow got me a flight on Thursday. Flight got delayed leaving Houston by like 45 minutes. If the plane from San Francisco to North Bend there was like technical difficulties, I would have missed that flight and they wouldn’t be able to get me out here until Saturday night. So it was pretty stressful.

Q. Not an easy place to get to.Corbin Mills: It’s not.

Q. Will you be back?Corbin Mills: Sorry?

Q. Will you be back to Bandon Dunes?Corbin Mills: I hope so. I think it would be an awesome place to come back to.

Q. All of these people in your family, do they all play golf?Corbin Mills: My two little brothers do, and my dad plays a little bit. My grandfather plays, and my little sister I completely forgot she’s starting to play golf. We’ve got a little golfing family.

Q. Did your father get you started, your grandfather?Corbin Mills: Both of them kind of did. I lived in Italy growing up a little bit, and

Q. Why was that?Corbin Mills: My parents were missionaries.

Q. Okay.Corbin Mills: I really didn’t have any sports to play over there, so I played a lot of golf. My dad and my grandpa really hooked me up with sending the golf clubs over and stuff like that so I’d always get the cool stuff. All the time people would be like whoa, what is this?

Q. No soccer over there?Corbin Mills: No soccer for me. I’m a little too big for soccer.

Q. Were you heavily recruited coming out of high school?Corbin Mills: I committed before I got all the letters or something. I got recruited I guess pretty heavily. I don’t know what heavily would be.

Q. What other schools were interested in you?Corbin Mills: I don’t really know because I didn’t really even talk to anybody else.

Q. It was Clemson?Corbin Mills: It was Clemson, yeah.

Q. Did your family go there?Corbin Mills: They didn’t. Well, my older sister did. It’s right up the road, 30, 35 minutes up the road, so it’s nice being close to home.

Q. It certainly has the golf pedigree too?Corbin Mills: It does. It really does.

Q. Do you think you’ll seek out I don’t know who is in the Masters next year. But probably Jonathan Byrd will probably be in there, and Lucas [Glover] will be in the Masters. Are you close with these guys at all?Corbin Mills: Yeah, I know them so so. I mean, I’ve seen them around. I’ll definitely be talking to them if I get that invite.

Q. (Indiscernible).Corbin Mills: I have, yes, sir.

Q. On 17 today, did you see his tee shot go in the [fairway] bunker?Corbin Mills: Did I, yeah.

Q. And you were just trying to carry it over all that stuff?Corbin Mills: I said swing hard. I knew I could get it past him, and I wasn’t going to play it safe. I said keep it up the left side and just let it go.