Given his impressive amateur resume, Peter Uihlein knows from risk/reward shots.
The first-team All-American at Oklahoma State could have easily returned to Stillwater for his final college semester this spring, a path he himself expected to follow as recently as late August. Yet when presented with a unique chance to embark on his pro career, the 22-year-old U.S. Walker Cup standout decided the upside was too good to pass up.
"It was just one of those things where I felt like it was my time," Uihlein told Golf World Dec. 19, hours after announcing in a press release his decision to make his professional debut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the European Tour next month, forgoing his remaining college eligibility.
After Abu Dhabi, Uihlein expects to receive sponsor's exemptions into the Euro Tour's Qatar Masters and the Dubai Desert Classic the following two weeks, then travel to India to play in the Avantha Masters in New Delhi.
Represented by International Sports Management, Chubby Chandler's agency, Uihlein anticipates being able to get three other Euro Tour exemptions before May. Should his game live up to the potential he showed as an amateur, the possibility of earning enough money to claim a tour card before the start of the summer is quite real.
"I felt like I could get in some events early on and not have to wait until June [at the end of the college season] and try and compete with all those other guys that are turning pro as well," Uihlein said. "It's just a good opportunity that made sense. That's kind of what it came down to."
That doesn't mean the decision was easy. Having spent the previous three seasons at Oklahoma State, helping the Cowboys reach match play at the NCAA Championship each year only to disappointingly fall short of winning an NCAA title each time, there were reason for Uihlein to wait until the summer to make the move.
Uihlein admitted telling OSU coach Mike McGraw of his decision last week was difficult but felt they appreciated the opportunity he had. "They're a class act," Uihlein said. "I knew they were going to handle things well. That's just the way they are. They truly are concerned about you as a player. They wanted me to be successful and do well. I'm going to miss everybody out there, miss my teammates."
Should Uihlein stumble in his Euro Tour starts, he expects to focus on Europe's Challenge Tour as an avenue to develop his game rather than return to the U.S. and seek multiple sponsor's exemptions into PGA Tour events. He says that having seen the benefits other young players (Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Adam Scott to name a few) received in playing a global schedule, learning about travel and stepping up to the challenge of competing around the world, he believes playing overseas can help bolster his game.
"Adam, Rory and Graeme, they all became seasoned in Europe before they came to the U.S," Uihlein said. "It's just a great opportunity for someone like me to go out and try to earn some money, get my world ranking up and just try to play well in some events."