Nationwide Tour awaits Hearn, Mills

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

A couple of golfing buddies will be getting together a little more on the road this year after work disrupted their road trips the past few years.

Belleville's Jon Mills, 28, and Brantford's David Hearn, 27, obviously would prefer to see one another on the PGA Tour, but the reality is that they will play on its development circuit, which kicks off its 2007 schedule this week at the Panama Movistar Championship.

Each has had a taste of the PGA Tour, the most recent being Mills, who finished fifth on the 2005 Nationwide Tour money list to earn a direct ticket to the big circuit last year, when he missed 21 of 27 cuts to finish 227th on the money list and lost his card.

A year earlier, Hearn suffered the same fate when he finished 196th on the PGA Tour money list after getting there through qualifying school in 2004.

Last year, Hearn finished 57th on the Nationwide Tour money list, which will keep him there along with Mills. Both failed to make it back through Q-school.

The message from both players is that being consumed by disappointment at being back on the Nationwide Tour can only be destructive. Both haven't hit their primes yet, so the best thing for them to do is learn from their mistakes in their quest to return to the PGA Tour.

Mills, who won the 2005 Canadian PGA Championship, spent the past couple weeks in the Phoenix area working on his game.

"What I didn't like about last year had nothing to do with swing stuff. It was more mental," Mills said. "I definitely felt like I belonged, but I was putting too much pressure on myself just to make the cut.

"I would get to the 36th hole and be right on the cut line. I would put more pressure on myself there than if I was contending."

Hearn says such anxiety is common for a new player, and Mills, who he has known since junior golf, will work it out.

"You're always thinking, 'what if?' especially your first year out there as opposed to just going out there and playing your game. It's just a learning experience," he said. "Some guys adjust a lot more quickly than other guys and that's okay. There's a lot of years ahead.

"I think for him to be down on himself wouldn't be right. We all know where our abilities are and he's a confident player."

Before leaving for Panama, Hearn was in Florida working on his short game and tightening his swing. He says the 2006 Nationwide Tour season started slowly for him, but picked up toward the end.

"I feel like at the end of last season, I was playing some really good golf and I thought I was making some good progress.

"Earlier in the season, I would put together a couple of good rounds and then, on the weekend, I would have one bad round that would cost me. Toward the end of the season, I felt I was playing a little better on Saturday and Sunday and I was happy with where my game was going."

A perfect illustration of that came at the Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in September, when Hearn strung together rounds of 69-67-71-68 to finish as top Canadian with a tie for 20th.

"I put a lot of focus this year on playing well at the Canadian Open. I was so close to home. I played a lot of practice rounds at Hamilton -- I love that golf course so much -- so I did put a lot of emphasis on having a good week there.

"I felt I played very solidly for four days and I wasn't too far away from putting together a really good Canadian Open, so I think that really gave me a boost toward the end of the year."

Joining Mills and Hearn in Panama this week will be PGA Tour veteran Ian Leggatt of Cambridge. Other Canadians in the field include David Morland IV, Brad Fritsch, Chris Baryla and Bryn Parry.


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