Corbin Mills Claims First Professional Win at eGolf Tour’s Cabarrus Classic
By Stewart Moore
Concord, NC – Just five months removed from competing in the 2012 Masters Tournament, former amateur star Corbin Mills of Easley, SC birdied seven of his first eight holes on Friday in the final round of the eGolf Tour’s Cabarrus Classic, parlaying his hot start into a final-round 67, a 14-under 202 total, and his first professional win.
The Cabarrus Classic was the 20th event of the 2012 eGolf Tour season and was contested this week at Cabarrus Country Club in Concord, NC.
Mills began the final round trailing overnight leader Jack Fields of Southern Pines, NC by three shots following rounds of 67-68—135 (9-under) to start his week. Early on in the final round, the former Clemson University standout put his stamp on the event, posting birdies on seven of his first eight holes to soar into the lead.
Birdies on his first four holes took Mills to 13-under, but a double-bogey at the par-3 fifth slowed his momentum, in turn dropping him to just 2-under for the day.
“I got off to a great start with those birdies, but the double at No. 5 kind of snuck up on me,” said Mills, 22. “I had to re-focus after that and was able to quickly get it back.”
Birdies on Nos. 6, 7 and 8 more than erased the par-3 stumble, and took Mills to 5-under for the day, where he turned for a front-nine 31 and the tournament lead at 14-under par.
On the closing nine of the George Cobb-designed Cabarrus course, Mills got up-and-down for birdie at the par-5 11th to move further into the red at 15-under par. Three follow-up pars took the eGolf Tour rookie to the watery par-3 15th, where a three-putt from above the hole dropped him back down to 14-under.
“I was putting down the tier and thought it would be a lot faster than it was, but I left it short and missed the next one,” said Mills. “After that, it was pretty crowded on the leaderboard, so I knew I’d probably need another birdie.”
When Mills bogeyed 15, it brought a trio of players back into the mix, starting with playing partner Stefan Wiedergruen of Germany.
The former UNC Charlotte star made four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the front nine to reach 13-under. The Mills bogey at 15 brought Wiedergruen back into the fold, at the time just one back of his competitor in the day’s 9:00 AM pairing.
Both Mills and Wiedergruen pared the uphill par-4 16th, but when Mills flew the green at the par-4 17th, it opened a door for the Wablingen, Germany native to possibly seize the event’s title.
Wiedergruen hit his approach to 9 feet, in turn putting pressure on Mills to get up and down from long of the green. A pitch to 5 feet gave Mills a look at par, but when Wiedergruen converted his birdie try, Mills missed to force a two-shot swing heading to the tee of the par-5 18th. On the tee of the 600-yard closing hole, Wiedergruen was at 14-under, while Mills stood one back at 13-under.
An errant layup shot by Wiedergruen at the three-shot hole gave Mills an opening. With a 7-iron from 180 yards out of the right rough, Mills hit a stunning third shot to 8 feet to set up what he hoped would be a closing birdie – possibly for the win.
“When Stefan hit his second in the trees, I knew I just had to put my second in play to give myself a chance,” said Mills. “He was going to have a hard time making par from there, so I wanted to give myself a look.”
Wiedergruen hit his third to 25 feet, and two-putted for a stunning bogey that dropped him to 13-under 203 – for a brief moment, tied with Mills.
With 8 feet for birdie to post 14-under 202, Mills’ putt found the bottom of the cup for a stellar 5-under 67 that tied the day’s low round, and put the former Tiger great just 20 minutes away from his first professional win.
In the day’s final pairing, Fields and 2012 eGolf Tour winner Peter Malnati of Dandridge, TN played their way back into the fold. Fields had notched birdies at 11 and 13 to reach 13-under par, while Malnati carded a late birdie at 17 to reach 13-under himself. Needing birdies to tie Mills, the twosome headed to the 18th hoping to force a sudden-death playoff.
Two solid layup shots gave way to decent thirds by each, with Malnati’s approach coming to rest 25 feet short of the back-left pin, and Fields’ finding the back fringe, just 18 feet from the hole.
First to putt was Malnati, who gave his birdie effort an aggressive role, only to see it miss on the high side. The last player on the course with a chance to tie Mills was Fields, who quickly gave his birdie try a run, but also missed – leaving Mills with his first professional win, as well as the $12,500 first-place prize.
“It feels great to win,” he said. “I was watching those guys putt at the last, so it was a pretty cool feeling when I saw the putts slide by the hole.”
The win further justified Mills’ decision to leave school a year early and turn professional this past July after representing the United States in the prestigious Palmer Cup.
“It’s a lot different out here, compared to amateur golf,” he said. “Out here, you feel like you have to shoot 8-under all the time just to have a chance. If you do that in amateur golf, you probably wind up winning most events.”
Mills’ 2011 campaign on the amateur level was the thing that dreams are made of, with a win at the U.S. Public Links Championship and the Players Amateur, he had asserted himself as one of the game’s up-and-coming stars. The Publinx win came with one very special envelope – an invitation to the 2012 Masters Tournament. While he missed the cut with rounds of 74-81, the easy-going Southerner took away much more from the April tradition – most notably, that he could compete.
“There wasn’t a lot of pressure on me, just playing as an amateur,” he said. “I was able to have fun and learn a lot from the other guys. An experience like that is something that can only be a positive. I think it really helped my game.”
The win came in Mills’ fourth start of the year on the eGolf Tour. He also competed in the PGA TOUR’s RBC Heritage in April, and the Web.com Tour’s Utah Championship in July.
Fields and Wiedergruen shared runner-up honors, with Malnati claiming a T4 finish after missing his comeback par putt at the last.
The T2 finish gave both Fields and Wiedergruen $6,109 on the week, in turn moving the twosome to Nos. 15 and 23, respectively, on the tour’s money list.
Fields’ rookie year on the eGolf Tour has been somewhat of a roller coaster, with nine missed cuts in 17 starts. However, at the Columbia Open in May, he played brilliant golf, and turned four solid days into his first professional win.
During that week, Fields posted rounds of 67-62-72-67—268 (19-under) en route to a one-shot victory over Drew Weaver, Josh Brock and Nick Taylor. The $25,000 first-place prize resurrected a rookie year that began in slow fashion with missed cuts in each of his first two starts.
The T2 marked a career-best for Wiedergruen, and was the third top-4 finish of his 2012 season on the eGolf Tour. The former Forty-Niner great had near-misses earlier in the year at the HGM Hotels Classic at Rock Barn (3rd) and the Bolle Classic (T4), but struggled shortly thereafter, missing four straight cuts before a T6 at the Grand Harbor Open in August ended his slide.
Malnati, who wound up at 12-under 204, tied Savannah, GA native Wills Smith for fourth, with both players picking up $3,625 for their efforts.
Malnati, a former University of Missouri standout is nearing the end of a stellar year on the eGolf Tour, with a win at the Championship at Wintergreen Resort and over $57,000 in earnings to sit at No. 7 on the tour’s money list. Prior to notching his first tour win at Wintergreen, the easy-going Malnati had a T2 effort at the Championship at St. James in April and a solo-third-place finish at the Willow Creek Open in May. The T4 at Cabarrus marked his fifth top-5 of the year.
· The tour would like to thank Cabarrus Country Club head golf professional Ken Guilford and Corbin Mills, general manager Ronnie Parker and their respective staffs for their help in coonating this annual event. A special thanks goes out to head golf course superintendent Tim Davis, assistant superintendent Matthew Whitley, and their crew for a fantastic job in getting the golf course ready for play each day in and day out. Finally, the tour would like to thank the volunteers and members of Cabarrus C.C. for allowing the tour to utilize their course for the week. Without their support, the event would not be possible.
· The tour remains in the greater Charlotte area next week for the Olde Sycamore Open, to be contested at Olde Sycamore Golf Club in Mint Hill, NC on September 26-28, 2012.