American Peter Uihlein has been awarded the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award following a hugely successful first season on The European Tour, in which he won his maiden title and finished 14th in The Race to Dubai.
The 24 year old is the first player from the USA to win the prestigious award, and follows in the footsteps of golfing legends such as Sir Nick Faldo (1977), Sandy Lyle (1978), José María Olazábal (1986) and Colin Montgomerie (1988) and more recently Sergio Garcia (1999), Ian Poulter (2000), Paul Casey (2001), Martin Kaymer (2007) and Matteo Manassero (2010).
Having turned professional in December 2011 following a glittering amateur career, Uihlein secured a European Challenge Tour card for 2013 and made a promising start. He also received several invitations for European Tour events, and took advantage of the opportunities to notch top ten finishes in the Tshwane Open and the Open de España early in the season.
His season-changing victory came in May, at the Madeira Islands Open, through which he earned full European Tour playing rights and meant his schedule changed dramatically for the rest of the year. He continued to show he could deal with the step up, finishing tied tenth in both the BMW International Open and the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, before a fine spell in the second half of the campaign.
In August the Floridian was denied a second title by a barnstorming finish from Grégory Bourdy in the ISPS Handa Wales Open where he finished second and he maintained that superb form at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, where he came within a whisker of recording the first 59 in European Tour history at Kingsbarns in the second round.
The 12 under par 60 helped him tie for the lead after 72 holes, but he was thwarted by David Howell at the second hole of a sudden-death play-off. In his next appearance on The European Tour, Uihlein tied for fifth in the BMW Masters presented by SRE Group, the first event in the inaugural Final Series.
The Oklahoma State University graduate 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, who reached world amateur number one 2010. “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 and I was able to play at Wentworth (the BMW PGA Championship) the following week.
“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.”
Before joining the paid ranks, Uihlein won the 2010 US Amateur Championship, and won four points from four matches in the 2009 Walker Cup.
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “We heartily congratulate Peter on an outstanding season, during which he has thrilled golf fans and challenged for several titles. He is a worthy winner of the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year.
“His incredible 60 at Kingsbarns, which ended with his eagle putt for a 59 missing by a fraction, will go down as one of the finest displays on The European Tour.
“Peter enjoyed a wonderful career as an amateur and it is so pleasing to see him fulfilling his potential at the game’s highest level. We wish him every success for the future.”
Uihlein just outshone numerous other outstanding Rookie of the Year candidates including Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnat (39), who won the Maybank Malaysian Open in March, South African Justin Walters (64), Germany's Maximilian Kieffer (73), attached to Golf and Country Club Fleesensee - a European Tour Property, England's Eddie Pepperell (76) and Denmark's Morten Orum Madsen (81).