Peter Uihlein is focusing on Europe this fall. The 2010 U.S. Amateur champion is in contention for a European Tour card at this week’s Challenge Tour finale, the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.
He’s bypassing PGA Tour Q-School to chase his playing privileges across the pond. Uihlein, thanks to six top-10 finishes, is No. 26 on the Challenge Tour’s Order of Merit. The top 21 at week’s end will earn a European Tour card. Uihlein, like all players who qualify for the Grand Final, also is exempt for the final stage of European Tour Q-School.
He trails the 21st player on the Order of Merit, Argentina’s Daniel Vancsik, by €5,125 (about $6,650). The Grand Final starts Wednesday at San Domenico Golf in Savelletri, Italy. The tournament’s €330,000 purse ($428,000), including a €56,650 winner’s check ($73,475), is among the largest on the tour this season.
“You spend five months playing to get your card. It wouldn’t make sense to get this close and just not do it,” Uihlein said of his decision to skip PGA Tour Q-School. “It’s tough because you’d obviously like to play U.S. Tour school. It’s tough with scheduling. It just made sense (to play the Challenge Tour) because I was so close.”
Uihlein, who began working earlier this year with instructor Butch Harmon, is one of two Americans in Italy this week. Brooks Koepka, this year’s ACC player of the year, is 42nd on the Order of Merit after winning the Challenge de Catalunya. The former Florida State All-American turned pro and headed to Europe almost immediately after this year’s U.S. Open, for which he qualified as an amateur. Sihwan Kim, the former U.S. Junior champion and Stanford All-American, is 30th on the Order of Merit; Kim, who attended high school and college in California, plays under the South Korean flag.
Uihlein, Kim and Koepka are three of the 11 rookies in the 45-man field.
Koepka and Kim advanced out of the first stage of PGA Tour Q-School last week in Lakeland, Fla. (Kim was co-medalist, while Koepka finished third.) Uihlein decided to stay on the Challenge Tour to chase his card. He passed on this year’s PGA Tour Q-School – the final one that will offer PGA Tour playing privileges – to focus on the Challenge Tour.
The PGA Tour’s changes to its qualifying structure mean Uihlein will have decisions down the road if he wants to play the PGA Tour. No longer can Q-School be used for an instant promotion to the PGA Tour. Most players will have to spend a year on the Web.com Tour to earn a PGA Tour card. Players also can try to earn playing privileges through sponsor exemptions and/or starts in the majors and World Golf Championships.
“As of right now, I’m just focusing on playing over here,” Uihlein said.
Uihlein’s six top-10 finishes, which came in a seven-tournament stretch, are third-most on the tour this year. He will need one more high finish this week if he hopes to earn a European Tour card.