BANDON, Ore. -- Clemson's Corbin Mills became the first qualifying medalist to win the U.S. Amateur Public Links in 11 years, holing a 5-foot par putt on the first extra hole Saturday to finish off ex-Clovis East High and current UNLV standout Derek Ernst.
The 21-year-old Mills, from Easley, S.C., squared the match with a conceded birdie on the 35th hole and matched Ernst with a par on the 36th to force an extra hole on Bandon Dunes' Old Macdonald course.
Both found the fairway off the tee, then hit the green with their approach shots. Ernst rolled his 50-foot birdie attempt 10 feet past the hole, while Mills came up 5 feet short on a 30-footer.
Ernst then watched his par putt spin out, before Mills hit his shot.
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"I thought I made it," Ernst said. "I hit it right where I wanted to and it just didn't drop."
It ended what was a stunning comeback by Ernst, who saw Mills build a 4-up lead through 24 holes.
Mills still led 4 up to begin hole 27 when Ernst began his run. By the time it was over, he had won five straight holes and had his own 1-up lead.
"I kept telling myself that I was still in it," Ernst said. "I was down, but I still believed I could pull it off."
Ernst was 1 up with two holes to play, but three times found bunkers on a 546-yard par 5 and Mills tied it.
"I never thought I'd make it this far, Mills said. "Even getting here wasn't good. You know, God really blessed me."
Mills earned a spot in the 2012 Masters, if still an amateur.
"It hasn't sunk in all the way, but I think here shortly it will," Mills said. "It's kind of always been a dream."
And, oh by the way, he was fighting an ear infection and pink eye.
"I think I got the ear infection like two days before I came out here," he said. "Then on the plane ride here, my eye started leaking stuff. I couldn't see, couldn't hear out of my left ear."
Ernst, 21, by making the final is ensured a spot in this year's U.S. Amateur set for Aug. 22-28 at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, an exemption from local qualifying for next year's U.S. Open (if he remains an amateur) and a three-year APL exemption.
"I'm exhausted," Mills said. "I was waiting to collapse with four holes to play. My legs are killing me, my feet are killing me. I mean, it feels like I've had such a tough match with everybody, so I'm just mentally drained, physically drained.
"It's a lot of golf you played in a short period of time. You went from your practice rounds to Monday, Tuesday's 18 holes and then it is just crammed."
The last qualifying medalist to win was former Clemson star D.J. Trahan in 2000.