Erin, Wis. – It was billed as a potential Walker Cup preview. Corbin Mills is hoping that’s exactly what it was, so he can get another shot at Jack Senior.
Senior, recently selected to the 10-man Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup Team that will host the biennial Match next month at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland, put on a masterful display on the greens at Erin Hills Thursday at the 111th U.S. Amateur. He walked off with an easier-than-expected 6-and-4 victory over Mills, the reigning U.S. Amateur Public Links champion who is bidding for one of the three remaining spots on the USA Team.
I have no idea what my chances are, but winning today would have helped a lot, said Mills, 21, of Easley, S.C., a junior at Clemson University. I would love the chance to play him again. Hopefully, I’ll get that chance over there [in Scotland].
Senior, 23, of Lancaster, England, is nicknamed the bear. But his putting was simply unbearable to Mills, who won only two holes, one when the match already was dormie after 12 holes.
He putted amazingly, said Mills, who defeated Derek Ernst in 37 holes to win the APL at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s Old Macdonald course in late June.
Senior didn’t disagree. My whole game was just very solid, but I had the blade working really well, he said. Corbin played some good golf, but I just never let him in the match.
Mills briefly had the upper hand with a birdie on the par-5 first, but he found himself quickly 2 down when Senior birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 5 with a series of mid-length putts. Mills then handed Senior the sixth with a bogey, and it was off to the races for the Englishman.
That was a key stretch, getting that good cushion, Senior said. I was able to push him off his game a bit here and there, and that’s what happens in match play. It could happen to me later, run into someone in red-hot form. You hole putts and you’re going to be hard to beat.
Senior’s advantage would only grow. At the par-3 ninth, he holed a curving 20-footer to go 4 up, and then took advantage of another Mills miscue when the American flew the 10th green with his approach and couldn’t get up and down, while Senior made a comfortable par.
It was more of the same at 11 as Mills went long and putted down safely to tap-in range, only to watch his opponent ram home a 12-foot birdie.
Mills might have been able to extend the match farther, but he missed a 10-foot birdie at the 12th. Senior took two to extract himself from a bunker at the par-3 13th to give Mills the win with a 3-foot par conversion, but Mills couldn’t take advantage of another miscue at the par-5 14th, when Senior pushed his drive into the high weeds and could only hack out his second. Mills laid up safely, but missed his approach. Then he needed two pitch shots to find the green. He conceded Senior’s 10-footer for par to end the match.
Senior, who faced 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Justin Thomas in the second round on Thursday afternoon, liked his chances going forward.
I love the golf course. I think it’s brilliant, he said. It’s my type of golf course where you have to hit your driver well. The greens are getting faster; they were a lot faster than yesterday, so you have to be careful, especially if you get above the hole. But, yeah, I’m looking forward to the next test.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose material has previously appeared on USGA websites.