US amateur ace turns pro in Europe
US golf suffered a blow yesterday when one of its brightest young talents announced he is to base his professional 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 sometimes insular world of the PGA Tour.
The 22-year-old was expected to remain in the non-paid ranks until after the 2012 college system, but yesterday it was revealed he has already left Oklahoma State University and will turn pro on 1 January.
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 – another "pioneering move" – 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 Cheshire 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 by Peter," said Chandler, who lost Rory McIlroy earlier this year. "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, including America, 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. The shrewd 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 Darren Clarke (5-1).
Lewis named as the best rookie
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 to secure a two-year tour exemption. Lewis burst on to the scene in July at the Open, where he hit a first-round 65 at Sandwich on his way to finishing as leading amateur.