Peter Uihlein has joined a number of golf's greats, including the likes of Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle and Sergio Garcia, by being named the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year after a very successful first year on tour.
The popular 24-year-old had a glittering amateur career and he became the first American to win the prestigious award in the same year that he claimed his maiden tour title and finished 14th in the Race to Dubai.
Uihlein arrived on the European Tour in May after initially starting 2013 with only a Challenge Tour card. Top ten finishes in the Tshwane Open and the Open de Espana early in the season set him up nicely for victory at the Madeira Islands Open, where he earned full European Tour playing rights.
"I was supposed to start the year on the Challenge Tour, but instead I was 11th in the Race to Dubai heading into the final event, so it wasn't what I'd planned on but obviously it's fantastic" - Peter Uihlein
It perhaps should have been an even better year for Uihlein who was denied a second title on two separate occasions; first by a late charge from Gregory Bourdy in the ISPS Handa Wales Open and then in a play-off at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship by David Howell.
The Oklahoma State University graduate and former world amateur number one was thrilled to be the 49th recipient of the award, which was launched in 1960.
“It's an honour to win the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award,” said Uihlein. “I wasn't expecting it, but it's been a great year and I'm very pleased. I think I'm the first non-European to win it, so that's a great honour. Any time you're the first of anything, it's neat.
“The win in Madeira was great and I had a lot of top tens. I played well all week in Madeira and handled myself well in the wind, and it was nice to get the job done. The win opened a few doors for me.
“I was supposed to start the year on the Challenge Tour, but instead I was 11th in the Race to Dubai heading into the final event, so it wasn't what I'd planned on but obviously it's fantastic the way it has worked out.”
Uihlein and Koepka lead the way
Peter Uihlein and Brooks Koepka both decided to try their hand at making it in the professional ranks on European Tour before the PGA Tour as they saw it as an easier route in as well as a vital stage of their development from top amateurs to professionals. It appears as though Uihlein and Koepka's success this year has led to many others following suit with 83 Americans entering Q-School for the European Tour this year, compared with a combined total of 85 for 2011 and 2012.