Mills battling to join buddy Baryla

IAN HUTCHINSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

Chris Baryla, of Vernon, B.C., has embarked down a path taken a couple of times by his buddy Jon Mills, of Belleville, who doesn't plan on giving directions unless he's asked.

Baryla will join Mike Weir and Stephen Ames on the PGA Tour next year after a Nationwide Tour season that saw him win the Chattanooga Classic, one of five top-10 finishes in just 14 events, and finish 19th on the money list, where the top 25 earn their PGA Tour cards.

"I think he knows what he's doing," said Mills, who played on the PGA Tour in 2006 and 2008, each time making it through the Nationwide Tour money list after wins the preceding seasons.

"It's tough to set a schedule when you're first out -- you don't know when you'll get in (to a tournament). Then again, you have to be patient. You have to really be aware of how many you can play in a row and he's good at that," Mills said.

"People tend to get out there and be, 'I'm playing for so much money. I've got to keep playing because you never know.' I think that's the wrong way to go," he added.

"Being a rookie, you have to be patient because there are going to be some early events you don't get in. You just have to keep working on your game and eventually, you'll get in," Mills said.

Baryla is no stranger to obstacles as he has faced back problems and questionable status on the Nationwide Tour, but Mills has noticed his regular partner in practice rounds gaining confidence the past few months.

"He's always been a good ball-striker. He has just been struggling with his health so much and also with his lack of status," Mills said. "Finally, he's healthy. He's extremely fit. I play with him pretty much every practice round each week and it's pretty impressive to watch."

One success seems to lead to another in golf and Baryla's could have started at the beginning of his season with three top-10 finishes in his first six tournaments. It could have been his win in Chattanooga or it could have been his tie for eighth at the RBC Canadian Open.

"Having that kind of week on the (PGA) tour, I think it gave him a huge confidence boost coming back to the Nationwide Tour," Mills said.

"If there was any one aspect to this year that really maybe put the fire under him, it might have been going out there and having a week like that. Maybe, that really turned his focus on, 'Hey, I can play out here. I want to be out here next year,'" said Mills, who wants to be out there next year, as well.

To join Baryla, Mills will need a strong performance at qualifying school, where he starts at second stage, beginning Nov. 18 at Southern Hills in Florida after a year in which Mills had four top-10s, but missed 11 cuts in 26 events to finish 54th on the money list

"I really lacked consistency. I didn't really have any good finishes to get the ball rolling," he said.

"The biggest difference between this year and two years ago when I played well on this tour is the times when I missed the cut by one. (In 2007) I would have made the cut by one or would have made it on the number and then have a good weekend," added Mills.

"There were other times when I got myself into good position going into the weekend and maybe even had a good Saturday to get into position. It never really panned out and a lot of that just has to do with lack of consistency."

HUTCHGOLF@ZERONET.CA


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