Bandon, Ore. – Qualifying medalist Corbin Mills will face Derek Ernst in the 36-hole final of the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
Mills, of Easley, S.C., outdueled fellow 21-year-old Harris English, of Thomasville, Ga., 5 and 3, at Old Macdonald to book his spot in Saturday’s championship match.
In Friday afternoon’s other semifinal, Ernst, 21, of Clovis, Calif., defeated Jonathan Randolph, 22, of Brandon, Miss., 3 and 2.
Damp and calm conditions that dominated throughout much of the week gave way to abundant sunshine and a brisk northerly wind on Friday that at times gusted more than 30 miles per hour at the 7,016-yard, par-71 layout.
It has been 11 years since the qualifying medalist took home the James D. Standish trophy – former Clemson standout D.J. Trahan in 2000 – but the odds appear to be in Mills’ favor this week. Of the four previous APL championships conducted in Oregon, the medalist has won three times.
Wearing his Clemson colors, Mills, did not lose a hole in his 4-and-3 quarterfinal victory over Bend’s Andrew Vijarro, the only Oregonian to advance to match play.
I made a lot of pars and with conditions like this, pars will win a lot of holes, said Mills. The wind dried the greens out and they were a lot faster today. I like them a lot.
In his afternoon match, Mills won jumped ahead early, winning holes four and five to go 3 up against English. Then it was simply a matter of surviving the howling wind.
It was brutal, said Mills. I thought it would blow, but, man, it blew really hard. I’ve never played in wind like this. I mean the wind affected your putts.
Saturday’s championship will be Mills’ first 36-hole match. What is he doing to prepare?
Well, I’ve been going to the same pizza joint all week, said Mills. It’s been working, so I better stick with it, right?
One might not know it from his exceptional play, but Mills has been battling several health issues over the past 10 days.
First, he developed an ear infection two days before leaving for Bandon Dunes. Then, he missed his scheduled flight from South Carolina on Wednesday. He was able to catch a flight the following day, but developed pink eye, for which he is still taking antibiotics.
I haven’t been able to hear out of my left ear the whole week, said Mills. I don’t know if all this has me in some sort of zone, but whatever it is, it’s working.
Ernst is no stranger to USGA championships. The 2011 APL is Ernst’s eighth championship, a total which includes the last four U.S. Amateurs. He advanced to the round of 16 at the 2007 Amateur at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Ernst did not make any dramatic hole-in-ones on Friday, as he did at the par-4 eighth at Bandon Trails during the first round of match play on Wednesday. But the reigning Mountain West Conference champion from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas led from start-to-finish in both his matches at Old Macdonald on Friday.
In the morning, Ernst, who will be a senior this fall, four-putted the par-5 sixth and three-putted holes seven and eight, but his opponent, Daniel Miernicki, of Santee, Calif., could never square the match. After Miernicki conceded the ninth hole when he hit his drive into the gorse, Ernst rolled in a 15-foot-putt for birdie on No. 10 and a 12-footer for par on No. 11 to stretch his lead to 4-up.
Those putts were huge for my confidence, said Ernst. After that I was able to get in a focus zone and close him out.
In the afternoon, it appeared Ernst was set to cruise to an easy victory after going 5 up through 11, but the wind continued to be a factor on the inward nine, making every shot, including putts, tricky to gauge.
The wind really came into play, especially on No. 15. I think we spent 20 minutes between the two of us putting on that hole. The dunes had sand coming off them flying straight in your eyes. I had a 40-footer straight into the wind and I couldn’t see a thing.
After losing the first three holes in his opening round match against Joseph David, Ernst has started strongly in his last four matches. He won the first hole during his second- and third-round matches on Thursday and was 2 up through three holes against both Miernicki and Randolph.
I got off to slow starts in stroke play and in that first match, said Ernst, so I’ve keyed in on getting the momentum going early and I’ve been able to do that the last couple of matches. If you can get up early, it creates doubt in your opponent’s mind.
Ernst’s dominance of Randolph came as somewhat of a surprise given that Randolph had not been taken past the 15th hole in any of his previous four matches. Randolph had not trailed at any point during match play until the second hole of his semifinal against Ernst – a stretch of 59 holes.
As finalists, both Mills and Ernst earn exemptions into next months’ U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills. They also receive an exemption from local qualifying for next year’s U.S. Open. The champion receives a likely invitation to the 2012 Masters, plus a 10-year APL exemption, a gold medal and custody of James D. Standish Trophy for the ensuing year. The runner-up receive a three-year APL exemption and a silver medal.
This year’s APL is being played concurrently at Bandon Dunes with the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. The WAPL field also played its quarterfinal and semifinal matches at Old Macdonald on Friday. Brianna Do will face Marissa Dodd in Saturday’s 36-hole final.
The APL and WAPL are two of the 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association.
Michael Trostel is the curator/historian at the USGA Museum. E-mail him at email@example.com.
Bandon, Ore. – Results from Friday’s quarterfinal and semifinal matches of the 86th U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship being conducted at 7,016-yard, par-70 Old Macdonald at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
Corbin Mills, Easley, S.C. (138) def. Andrew Vijarro, Bend, Ore. (149), 4 and 3Harris English,
(143) def. J.J. Spaun,
Los Angeles, Calif.
(146), 2 and 1 Lower Bracket
Jonathan Randolph, Brandon, Miss. (141) def. Todd Baek, San Diego, Calif. (146), 5 and 3Derek Ernst, Clovis, Calif. (145) def. Daniel Miernicki, Santee, Calif. (146), 6 and 4
Mills def. English, 5 and3
Ernst def. Randolph, 3 and 2
Bandon, Ore. – Pairing and starting times for Saturday’s 36-hole of the 86th U.S. Amateur Public Links Championshp at 7,016-yard, par-71 Bandon Trails at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. (All times PDT)
7:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. -- Corbin Mills, Easley, S.C. (138) vs. Derek Ernst, Clovis, Calif. (145)