The Masters gets an orange feel
Every year the images from Augusta National Golf Club are the colorful azaleas and the saturated hue of green from the perfectly manicured grass.
This year you can add orange to the Masters’ color scheme.
Four golfers with ties to Clemson University wouldn’t mind mixing their Tiger orange with a green jacket that is traditionally draped around the Masters champion.
Lucas Glover is in his third year of a five-year exemption after winning the 2009 U.S. Open. Overall this is Glover’s fifth Masters, and has made the cut twice.
Jonathan Byrd qualified for the Masters by finishing in the top 30 of the PGA tour money list. Byrd owns the best finish by a Clemson golfer, eighth place in 2003.
Kyle Stanley is in the Masters field after winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February, and the way Stanley has played lately he might have the best shot of the Clemson foursome. Stanley has made seven of nine cuts and is fifth on the money list with nearly $2 million in tour earnings. He also is ranked fifth in the FedEx Cup standings.
While Glover, Byrd and Stanley are Clemson alums who earn their living on the PGA Tour and participated in major championships, the fourth member of this Tiger fraternity will experience that for the first time.
Corbin Mills is a junior on the 2012 Clemson golf team and has a good excuse why he missed last weekend’s Augusta State Invitational and upcoming Woodlands Invitational in Texas. Mills is playing in his first Masters.
Mills qualified by winning the 2011 United States Public Links Championship. Mills rolled in a 4-foot par putt on the first playoff hole to defeat Derek Ernst of UNLV in 37 holes of the match play final. That victory earned Mills an invitation to the Masters though he never thought about it.
“That was never in the back of my mind the whole entire time.” Mills said. “I think I did a good job to make that not really what I was focused on.”
The next week Mills focused on the Players Amateur and though he had shot three rounds in the 60s Mills had to overcome a four-shot deficit to win. He shot a closing round 72 to win at 12 under par. With that win Mills qualified for the RBC Heritage played the week after the Masters.
Mills has seen the world, literally. His parents were missionaries in Russia and Italy when he was growing up. The family settled in Easley, S.C., when Mills began high school. After a couple of years home schooled Mills attended nearby Wren High School in Anderson, South Carolina for his senior year and led Wren to a 4A Regional Championship.
After high school Mills crossed one more thing off his bucket list, playing for the Clemson Tigers.
“I’m from right down the road.” Mills said. “I’ve always been a Clemson fan. I dreamed of playing golf here.”
Since joining the Clemson golf team Mills has been one of its top performers. Last fall Mills shot all three rounds in the 60s to win the Jerry Pate Intercollegiate at 9 under par. Mills’ last outing for Clemson was the Furman Invitational in March, where he shot a final-round 65 and finished third.
This week Corbin Mills will test his game against the best in the world. That might be intimidating to Mills but the course won’t be. He’s played Augusta National five times and Mills believes his game is a good fit.
“I hit a long ball (off the tee) and I’m a good long-iron player.” Mills said. “I think I’ll do well on that aspect.”
Those who have won The Masters usually can hit if far, straight and high -- three qualities Mills has.
Tuesday Mills joins Byrd, Glover and Stanley for a practice round at Augusta National. Current Clemson assistant coach Jordan Byrd, Jonathan’s brother, will be carrying Mills’ bag while competing and told The OrangeandWhile.com he thinks of all the amateurs competing Mills has the best chance to make the cut because “he has a more professional golf game.”
Byrd does admit he’s biased though. Odds are there will be many other biased observers.
“I almost feel it’s like a hometown tournament.” Mills said. “A lot of Clemson people are going to be there.”