Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Jon Mills is enjoying the Game

To paraphrase Mark Twain, there is no better way to ruin a good walk than to carry a bag of clubs and play a round of golf. Jon Mills enjoys the exercise, and also enjoys whacking around the white ball during his walk.

Jon enjoys the game, and has for many years. That much was more than obvious last week as he spent a day at the Bay of Quinte Country Club on the shores of the Bay between Belleville and Trenton.

Jon plays the game professionally, and has for several years. He began as a kid at the Bay of Quinte course, and now finds himself earning a living at the game he enjoys. A comfortable living, I might add. He has pocketed more than two hundred thousand dollars so far this year, and has recently qualified for the United States Open, one of the more prestigious events on the circuit south of the border. He will be teeing up this week in the Open.

Jon returned to Belleville to help launch the McDonald’s “Learn to Golf Program for Kids”. The program introduces the game to young players who may otherwise not have a chance to learn. He has no qualms about re-investing in the game in this manner. The game was important to him as a kid, and he knows the benefits of the activity. “I have great memories about this Club and the game. We used to hang around here for hours as juniors. We had putting contest, chipping games. We had a great time after the rounds of golf.” He believes that those days also helped contribute to his success.

Mills attended Centennial Secondary School in the city, and was inducted into the school’s “Sports Hall of Fame” by a couple of educators, Debbie Clare and Doug Irvine, just before he conducted a clinic at the Bay of Quinte. Both teachers acknowledged Jon’s love of sports, and his dedication to the game. Irvine noted that in his senior year at Centennial, Mills would be the first on the basketball court at seven o’clock in the morning. “He played so many sports well. He loved to come into the gym and practice free throws, shooting from all areas, developing his rhythm and timing.”

Mills played plenty of hockey as well, and still follows the game from his home in Indiana, Pennsylvania. His wife Megan maintains the home front there, in her home town. Mills has recently returned to hockey in golf’s off season, if there is such a thing. “I am playing a little bit in an adult league. It was great to get back on the ice.” He was disappointed with the result of the Stanley Cup Final, as an avid Penguins fan.

He will be gearing up for Thursday’s Open by playing a practice round with another Canadian, Mike Weir. You may also catch him occasionally with Steven Ames, another very successful Canadian, or with a college chum from Kent State, Ben Curtis.

Mills prepares for his weekend games in a business-like manner. Monday is reserved for upper body work, Tuesday for lower body strengthening. Wednesday is reserved for stretching. There will also be rounds of golf, course reconnoitring, and buckets of balls to loft onto imaginary targets. He works out strenuously “three or four times a week” with a personal trainer, and has seen the benefits.

When asked whether or not he has hired a personal psychologist, he chuckled and said, “No, I leave that part of the preparation up to my coach, Dave Woods. He takes care of the swing too.” Woods is the Canadian Professional Golf Association Member from the Angus Glen Country Club, a prestigious golf establishment in Toronto.

The Globe and Mail’s Lorne Rubenstein, Canada’s pre-eminent golf journalist, lamented the fact that no one noticed Mills’ victory in the 2005 Canadian PGA Championship. It is the most important Canadian event for men, except for the Bell Canadian Open. Rubenstein also remarked on Jon’s swing: “There is a little rerouting of the club at the top of his backswing. He is committed to refining his swing.”

Mills commented on the technical aspect of the swing in this manner: “It stems from trying to get the club as far back as possible on my backswing, so my takeaway is a little bit outside and then the club reroutes itself to get back on plane.” Coach Woods made reference to a few other golfers who also swung the club in a somewhat quirky manner-Lee Trevino, Ray Floyd, and Jim Furyk. Reasonably good company.

Under the watchful eyes of his mother and father, Mills played nine holes with his brother Jeff, Bay of Quinte pro Russ DaSilva, and Mike Goyer, a local player who won the right to play the round. Mills’s dad, Dave Mills, worked for Ontario Hydro in the Belleville area for several years. He is now an executive director of the Golf Association of Ontario. Dave mentioned to me that the “Investors Group Women’s Amateur Championship” for 2008 will be played at the Bay of Quinte from July 8th to 10th. Canada’s best women golfers will be vying for the title. He also remarked that the course is in superb condition.

There was a large crowd of supporters at the Bay of Quinte-friends, family, golfing enthusiasts. Mills played the first two holes quietly, allowing his partners a place in the sun. On the third hole, a three hundred yard par four, he rolled his drive onto the green. He eyed the situation momentarily, then tapped in a ninety foot putt for an eagle. Breathtaking. He does know those greens!

Mills is now in San Diego, California, for the U. S. Open at Torrey Pines. He played in last year’s Open in Pennsylvania. He plans to play in many more. No doubt he will.

James Hurst

Great and timely article about Belleville's own - John Mills. He must be motivated by your article as he is doing very well going into round 3 of the US Open. We are watching him go even if most of the coverage uses Tiger as their focus! Keep up the great work mate.

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