The 25-year-old Oshawa native came in with a final round even-par 71 for a four-day total of 9-under 275, three shots clear of Bryan DeCorso of Guelph, ON. Rookie Lee Williamson finished four shots off the pace, while Anders Hultman and Mark Johnson came in at 4-under 280.
Not only did those near the top of the leaderboard have to wait out a storm delay for over an hour before teeing off, but once play resumed, gusting winds that reached 60 km/h swirled throughout the 6,522 yard layout for the rest of the afternoon. Scores skyrocketed and birdies were at a premium, but Mills, who began the day with a one-shot lead on McMillan and Chris Wisler, tamed the conditions to take home a $24,000 payday.
After Wisler, playing in the group in front, went birdie-eagle on his first two holes to take a one shot lead, Mills chipped in for eagle on the par-5 second hole and never looked back. He led by three at the turn and cruised to his first pro win on the back side. McMillan and Wisler werent able to keep pace once the course began baring its teeth.
Its a great feeling being able to deal with those conditions, with so much on the line, said a relieved Mills. We were backing off shots all day long because of the wind, and you could only attack the course when you had a chance.
Just six of the 73 players that made the cut managed to break par Sunday.
With a large a boisterous gallery behind him, McMillan stayed neck-and-neck with Mills before a double bogey on the par-4 eighth left him playing catch-up the rest of the way. McMillan was the last amateur to win a Tour event when he took honours at the 1996 Xerox Manitoba Open, and finished second to Ben Ferguson here in 2000. Twenty-four hours after getting himself back in the tournament with a blistering 65 in Round 3, McMillan wasnt able to turn on the jets Sunday. He drained a 50-foot bomb for birdie on the sixth that sent a thundering roar throughout Pine Ridge, but the double on eight put him in a hole and he never recovered.
I was right in the tournament until number eight, and that cost me a lot of momentum, admitted the three-time Tour champion. I hit a lot of shots today that didnt work out, but thats golf. Jon was so solid today, and he deserves to be where he is right now. If we could have put some heat on him early, maybe things could have been different. But this looks good on him.
McMillan joined the appreciative crowd in an animated scenario on the final green. After Mills left an eight-foot par putt teetering on the lip of the cup, the packed gallery and McMillan urged the wind to howl just one more time while Mills jokingly willed the ball to fall in the hole. He settled for bogey, but the outcome was no longer in doubt.
As an amateur, Mills enjoyed a memorable season in 2001, winding up sixth at the NCAA National Championship and peaking at number-14 in the GolfWeek magazine amateur rankings. The former Kent State University star also helped Canada to the Four Nations Cup crown two years ago. After securing a Canadian Tour card in the fall of 2001, Mills advanced to the final stage of PGA Tour Qualifying three months later and earned a Nationwide Tour card for 2002. He struggled during his first year on that circuit and returned north for this season. On Sunday, Mills was asked to compare his amateur success with his first professional title.
Wow, this is such a great feeling, its the best thing I have done in golf. The Four Nations team, the NCAA'they were great experiences, but this tops it all. I talked to my family and my wife (Megan) on the phone last night, and I know they were following on the computer today. They were as excited as I was- Ill be phoning them as soon as I am done here.
Mills admitted to suffering from a case of the nerves Saturday afternoon, when he struggled coming in and saw his lead shrink from four shots to one. After the third round, he said he would regroup Sunday and he was true to his word. While the overflowing gallery for the most part was pro-McMillan, Mills was impressed with the cheers that rang out for both players as they made their way around the course.
That crowd was fantastic, even if I was the bad guy, he laughed. I didnt want to get into match-play with him, and I was able to avoid that. I noticed how big a cheer got on the first tee, but they cheered for both of us all day. He was the hometown guy, but it was a great crowd.
NOTES: The toughest hole at Pine Ridge, the 231-yard, par-3 ninth, took on its toll on Tour players once again this week. Playing uphill to a domed green, there have been ten holes-in-one on the hole since 1912. The final tally through 72 holes this week: 16 birdies, 185 bogeys, 15 double bogeys and one other.Mills knocked his tee shot on nine to the back fringe Sunday before two-putting for parIt was the first time since McMillans victory in 96 that a Canadian-born player has won in WinnipegThere have been five first time winners in the first six Canadians Tour events of 2003. Only Derek Gillespie, who won the Corona Ixtapa Classic in Mexico, had hoisted championship hardware prior to this season.