Former U.S. Am Champ Uihlein Turns Pro, Values the Euro (Tour)
By Stephanie Wei under European PGA Tour

Uihlein sets his sights toward Europe

College and amateur standout Peter Uihlein, the youngest son of Acushnet chief Wally Uihlein, announced Monday his intention to turn pro, instead of finishing his final semester at Oklahoma State University. Uihlein, who captured the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay and played on two Walker Cup teams, will kick off his career exclusively in Europe, playing on sponsor’s exemptions on the European Tour, along with its developmental Challenge Tour.

Sticking with the Euro theme, Peter has signed with super agent Chubby Chandler of International Sports Management, joining his stable of Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy among others.

Uihlein may have fallen behind in his studies and said it would have been a stretch to graduate in the spring. He took some time away from college golf and probably classes to study for another exam — PGA Tour Q-school. He was among the group of standouts that surprisingly didn’t pass second stage.

“I loved my time at OSU. It was unbelievable experience and I’m definitely going to miss it,” Uihlein told the AP. “But the timing made perfect sense. I talked to my dad about it, and it seemed like a good opportunity.”

Turning pro in January gives the former No. 1 ranked amateur an entire year to try and earn full status on a major tour, but some find his decision to start in Europe to be rather curious because it’s unusual for a player of Uihlein’s caliber (and connections), who would no doubt have no problem securing sponsor’s exemptions in America. (He received quite a few in 2011.) My response to that is, open your minds, people! Why wouldn’t you go to Europe and Asia when you’re 22? He’s not married and doesn’t have kids (at least that we know of). It’s the time to do it.

The AP reports:

“There has been a great list of players who cut their teeth in Europe,” Uihlein said, mentioning Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and Schwartzel. “They all started in Europe and gained great experience by playing different courses. It’s a new challenge.”

Uihlein will make his pro debut against the best. He is to play Jan. 26-29 in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, a tournament that boasts one of the strongest fields of the year with defending champion Martin Kaymer, world No. 1 Luke Donald, McIlroy, Westwood and Tiger Woods.

He also is expected to play in the Qatar Masters and Dubai Desert Classic, and possibly the Avantha Masters in India.

Perhaps the decision has to do with Wally Uihlein’s understanding and support of global golf.

“Obviously, we have discussed where the `world’ of golf is headed,” (Wally) said in an email. “It is as if he is leaving `home’ to see just how much game he has, not unlike many years ago (when) one would leave the rural community and move to the big city. In today’s global economy, you leave your home country and see if you can establish a global resume.

I think it’s great that Peter is expanding his horizons (and has the guts to go beyond the safe confines of U.S. borders). I’m a strong proponent of American golfers venturing out of their comfort zones, while also getting the chance to experience playing in various conditions (which aren’t usually as pristine as the courses in America) and traveling the world. Call it character-building. Besides, I hear the European Tour is way more fun, anyway.

Heck, if such an opportunity were presented to me (to cover tours outside the U.S.), I’d jump on it in a heartbeat. Is it too late to plan a trip to Abu Dhabi?