VANCOUVER -- Unless your name is Tiger Woods, there is a learning curve that virtually every young golf pro must endure before he's ready to make it on the PGA Tour.
"From the time you're a junior, adults keep telling you about patience and hard work and using your head, but until you've been knocked down a few times and have to get back on your feet all by yourself, you probably haven't learned the lessons," Mike Weir said.
Jon Mills, in his fifth year as a pro, and now on the verge of testing himself against the best in the world, agrees.
At 27, Mills, from Oshawa via Kent State University and the Canadian Tour, has had such a strong year on the Nationwide Tour that his position on the PGA Tour is all but secured.
Mills is fifth on the Nationwide money list at $260,253 in earnings this year. The top 20 get an automatic free pass to the PGA.
"Right out of college I made the Nationwide Tour and didn't have a good year," Mills said yesterday after a practice round for the Bell Canadian Open.
"Off the top of my head I made five, maybe six, cuts and not much money. I guess it's how you deal with that kind of adversity.
"I used it as a learning experience and came back the next year on the Canadian Tour and had a good year. I guess that's just something you have to experience. That's what takes you to the next level and gets you over the edge."
Mills has a win and a second-place finish so far this year and has learned to trust his swing and to trust his own judgment.
"For a while, I was probably focused on the wrong things, when it came to hitting it far and all that stuff. Now I work hard on ball control, knowing my distances and especially with wedges because that's really what it comes down to and that's what gets you the low numbers."
Mills will be one of 16 Canadians looking for low numbers at Shaughnessy.
No matter what he does this week, Mills will go back to the Nationwide Tour and grind it out over the last few tournaments of the year, trying to improve his standing going into his first season on the PGA Tour in 2006.
"My goal is to get as high up the money list as I can so I can get into more events next year," he said.