Major boost for European Tour as US amateur hero makes surprise switch
American golf suffered a blow yesterday when one of its brightest young talents announced he is to base his career on the European Tour. Peter Uihlein has made what his agent claims is "a pioneering move" to focus on the global game instead of the PGA Tour.
The 22-year-old was expected to remain in the non-paid ranks until after the 2012 college season, but it was revealed he has already left Oklahoma State University and will turn pro on January 1.
As a former US Amateur champion, not to mention being the son of one of the most important figures in the sport, Uihlein would have been guaranteed invites on the main US Tour. Yet after signing with a British management company, his first event will be in Abu Dhabi in January, where the top four in the world plus Tiger Woods will appear.
"The European Tour plays all over the world from the UK to China, from Korea to South Africa and from the Middle East to southeast Asia," said Uihlein, whose father, Wally, is the head of Titleist. "And those who have played on the Tour, and who are still members, make for a pretty impressive list."
Chubby Chandler, managing director of ISM, the management company, was understandably delighted at capturing a player who had more than a year as the amateur world No 1.
"It's a pioneering move," said Chandler. "The obvious step would have been to try to establish his career in the US. But having seen players like Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Darren Clarke build careers by playing all over the world, Peter has been encouraged."
It is an intriguing move by Uihlein and one which will please the Tour's Wentworth HQ. It has always been vice versa, with top Europeans basing themselves on the PGA Tour, but his decision is indicative of the globalisation of golf, with Asia proceeding to pump money into the game. Uihlein may well have started a trend.
With yesterday's award of the Golf Writers Trophy, Luke Donald joined the 2008 recipient Padraig Harrington as only the second player to win the 'triple crown' of honours, having already been named the European Tour Golfer of the Year and PGA Tour Player of the Year. But he remains a 20/1 outsider to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Thursday behind Rory McIlroy (12/1) and Clarke (5/1).
Briton Tom Lewis has been named the European Tour's rookie of the year after the 20-year-old won on his third professional start at the Portugal Masters in October. Lewis burst on to the scene in July in the British Open at Sandwich.