The Canadian Tour rookie, who turned 24 earlier this month, seems destined to follow in the footsteps of Dave Barr, Richard Zokol, Mike Weir and Ian Leggatt as Canadians who have used the Tour as a springboard to the PGA Tour. It's a question of when and not if. Mills added to what has already been a memorable past year when he finished tied for ninth at last weeks Texas Challenge in Austin.
Being able to play well at this level has helped the confidence, stresses Mills, who will be in the starting field when the Scottsdale Swing at McCormick Ranch gets under way Thursday in the Phoeniz area. It shows that I can compete here. When you come into the pro ranks, you want to prove that right away, and I think Ive handled it well.
Mills ascent towards a berth on the worlds elite Tour has been quite impressive, to say the least. Just a couple of months after snaring a Canadian Tour card at Fall Qualifying School in September, the former NCAA First Team All-American (Kent State) carried that momentum into PGA Tour Q-School, where he advanced to the final stage and earned a conditional Buy.Com Tour card for this campaign.
Yeah, it has been quite a year for me, he adds. You have to adapt to the differences between amateur and pro, and that can be tough. The travel, the crowds, caddies . all of it can be tough for the new guys coming in. Anyone who follows this Tour knows how talented these guys are, and youve got to go out there and get some low scores under your belt. Its a whole new level of game.
Mills has things he wants to prove to himself but, as his amateur days show, he has made believers of a lot of people already. A sixth-place showing at the NCAA Nationals, as well as a 14th-place amateur ranking by Golfweek Magazine, will raise eyebrows in a hurry. Once the two Scottsdale events are in the books, Mills will likely try to get in some Buy.Com events, but he refuses to put too much pressure on himself.
I wont set any expectations for myself, at least not right now. All I can do is go out and play my best, and let everything else take care of itself. As the season goes on, well sit down and talk about goals.
Coming up through the ranks with the top young stars in this country has given Mills an added boost. Derek Gillespie, David Hearn, Eddie Maunder, Jonn Drewery and Gord Chilton are just a few of the current Tour members who have been with Mills every step of the way. In fact, Mills and Hearn are traveling together early in this Canadians Tour season. Close friends on and off the course, the duo have had amateur careers that have closely paralleled one another. Hearn, a teammate of Mills on the 2001 Canadian Four Nations Cup squad, lit up Circle C Ranch early last week, and carried a three-shot cushion into the weekend before eventually settling for a tie for 47th.
Obviously, David and I talk quite a bit, and last weekend was a learning curve for him. He is still a young guy (22) with his best years ahead of him. We had a good chat after Austin, and you can see the confidence in his eyes. But being around all those guys makes a big difference. It makes you comfortable to be in such a relaxing environment with guys you are familiar with. We play against each other on the course, but were all close and we root for each other.