Six Canadians head to the final stage of PGA Tour qualifying school starting Wednesday at Orange County National near Orlando, including David Hearn, who has already assured himself of a tour card, and Jon Mills, who is looking to make it on tour for the third time.
Hearn qualified by finishing in the top 25 on this year’s Nationwide Tour money list, while Mills was in contention to the end before finishing 33rd.
I chatted with both of them prior to Q-School for my Sun Media column. You can read it below:
It’s already mission accomplished for David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., but like the rest of the Canadians attending the final stage of PGA Tour qualifying school, he’s still trying to improve his fortunes.
Hearn is among six Canadians at Q-school, which gets underway Wednesday at Orange County National near Orlando. Others include Chris Baryla of Vernon, B.C., Jon Mills of Belleville, Ont., Vancouver’s Richard Lee, Matt McQuillan of Kingston, Ont., and Ted Brown of Peterborough, Ont.
Other Canadian residents at Q-school include David McKenzie, an Australian living in Victoria, and England’s Matt Richardson, who lives in Woodbridge, Ont.
“It’s really just a situation where I can improve on my status, so it’s a good opportunity to try and do that and it will be nice to play a competitive tournament between now and when the tour picks up next year,” said Hearn, who received his tour card by finishing 21st on the Nationwide Tour money list.
The top 25 get their cards.
“There’s no downside to me going. If I go and have a good week and win the tournament, that can do a lot for me next year. It would be a nice confidence boost to do well in that tournament,” he said. “However, if I don’t, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it, but it’s a good opportunity to really improve (his status).”
While Hearn is already a lock to play on the PGA Tour, others such as Mills, who played on tour in 2006 and 2008, go in this week needing an outstanding performance to join him.
Mills finished 33rd on the Nationwide Tour money list and appeared to be on his way back to the PGA Tour at the Jacksonville Open, the second-last tournament of the year where he held the 54-hole lead, but a final round 74 sunk him into a tie for fifth.
Mills tied for 38th at the Nationwide Tour Championship the following week, making a return to Q-school mandatory if he wants to get his PGA Tour card, not optional as it is with Hearn.
“I played better this year than I had the previous year and definitely took a lot of nice positives from this year,” said Mills, who specified his putting.
In Nationwide Tour stats, Mills tied for fourth in putting average and was 33rd in putts per round after working with Bob Skura, director of mental performance for the Core Golf Academy, and his coach Sean Foley.
“There was some stuff that I worked on with Bob Skura, just kind of changing the way I approached putts. I worked on a couple of putting drills with Sean,” said Mills.
“I’ve really gotten my putting back to less mechanical and focusing on outside of my mechanics, much more feel-oriented and, in a way, it’s creeping into the rest of my game as well when it comes to my chipping,” said Mills.
Confidence in your short game is a valuable commodity over the grueling 108 holes played during the final stage and Mills believes that’s what set the stage for Hearn regaining his PGA Tour card during the Nationwide Tour season.
“Even going into this year, I noticed a huge difference with him with his short game,” said Mills.
“He always drives the ball and hits the ball well, so I really don’t see any improvement in his ball-striking, but his short game has improved drastically. Overall, his chipping and putting has just been incredible. I think that’s the difference between previous years and this year when he got his card,” he added.
“There’s not a hug difference (in ball-striking) between the top guys and the guys who are trying to make it and I think the biggest difference is the short game,” said Mills.