2011 Players Am champion riding wave of success this summer

July 11, 2011 

Corbin Mills spent much of the week at Belfair Golf Club talking about how much fun he was having and "riding the wave" of success he has enjoyed the past two weeks.

That wave nearly came crashing down during the first 10 holes of Sunday's final round of the Players Amateur, after which Mills was 4-over par for the day and had gone from wire-to-wire leader to foundering four shots back.

But much like he did during last week's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in Bandon, Ore., Mills got back on the board.

The Clemson junior made four birdies over his final six holes, then made an impressive up-and-down to save par at No. 18 and claim his second prestigious amateur title in eight days.

Riding the wave has provided quite a thrill.

It began with a tumultuous trip to Oregon, complete with a missed flight, an ear infection and a case of pink eye. But the ailments didn't stop him from rolling through the match play field last week and bringing the momentum from his victory back across the country and winning the Players Amateur after a short turnaround.

It's a lot to process when Mills has hardly had a moment of down time to reflect.

"I think it's going to hit me this next week," said Mills, who was headed back home to Easley after Sunday's final round, where he expected about 180 friends and family members were waiting to welcome him home.

"It could get a lot bigger right now," he said with a laugh.

They'll gather to celebrate a surreal two-week stretch in which Mills made a strong case that he's playing better than any amateur golfer in the world at the moment.

He came out as medalist of the 36-hole stroke play qualifying last week in Oregon, then reeled off six match play wins in four days, including beating Drew Ernst on the first extra hole in the 36-hole final.

Then he mastered the back nine on Belfair's West Course all week, shooting 13 under par on that side over four rounds to become the first wire-to-wire winner of the Players Amateur and the first Clemson golfer to claim one of the Palmetto State's premier amateur events -- no small task considering PGA Tour players Lucas Glover, D.J. Trahan and Kyle Stanley are all Players Am alums.

For as exciting and eventful as the past two weeks have been, though, a certain two-week stretch next spring might just top it.

The win last week in Oregon earned Mills an invitation to next year's Masters, and his Players Amateur win gives him a sponsors exemption for next year's RBC Heritage the week after the Masters.

For a South Carolina kid who grew up playing golf just a short drive from Augusta, Ga., that's pretty close to a dream fortnight.

"I tried not to think about it that much, because I didn't want to get caught up," Mills said. "It's pretty awesome."

Now it's time to hop off the board for a moment to catch his breath before the Palmetto Amateur in Aiken in two weeks, followed by the Porter Cup, the Western Amateur and the U.S. Amateur later this summer.

By then, who knows whether the wave will still be rolling along, but if it is, Mills will be happy to keep riding it as far as it will take him.

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