News & Opinion

Uihlein brings his global odyssey home

You get the feeling that it’s not about money for Peter Uihlein. Or even about playing on the best golf tour in the world. Or about being home on a Sunday night after having made the cut. All right, maybe a little about that.

Instead, it seems to be about traveling the world, sampling different cultures and life experiences. About being willing to venture outside of his comfort zone and eventually being comfortable in it.

Uihlein, who recently turned 28, has played the European Tour for the last five years, since he left Oklahoma State as a senior in late 2011 and turned pro after having won the 2010 U.S. Amateur. This season, he played in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. And France, China, India, South Africa, Malaysia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and Australia – and the U.S.

And he lives in Orlando, Fla., which makes no sense whatsoever. If you work in Europe, you live in Europe, right? 

Until this year, Uihlein hasn’t give much more than a thought of playing the PGA Tour on a full-time basis. He has one victory in Europe – the 2013 Madeira Islands Open in Portugal – and lost in a playoff that year at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

So far in 2017 on the European Tour, he has made 1.165 million euros (about $1.39 million), and there’s still the Race to Dubai tournaments to play on the European Tour. Uihlein ranks 12th in the Race to Dubai standings.

But last Sunday, Uihlein’s life got more complicated. He won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in the Web.com Tour Finals. The victory assured him of PGA Tour playing privileges for the 2017-18 season.

Uihlein got to the Web.com Finals after playing in four regular PGA Tour events and three majors in 2017. He finished fifth in the Puerto Rico Open and totaled $272,529 in earnings, which got him inside the top 200 on the Tour money list. The Web.com Finals include Nos. 126-200 on the money list, as well as Nos. 1-75 on the Web.com Tour money list.

It’s the first time he has competed in the Web.com Finals, and he did so because after five years, playing the PGA Tour looks very attractive to him.

“I think this is the first year I've felt like I really, really, really wanted it,” Uihlein said Sunday evening. “I played Puerto Rico, then Houston and then played Memorial, Memphis. I got a taste of three of the majors. People ask why I'm doing this, and it's like, well, I played in Houston this year, and we were off early Sunday morning because of bad weather. It was a huge draw. We were first off of [the first tee]. 

“It was the first time in my professional career I was home on Sunday night after playing on a Sunday. Never once have I done that. So that kind of hit home a little bit. I was like, I really kind of want to at least get my PGA Tour card where I can have moments like that so I can spend a little more time at home with my girlfriend and my two dogs.”

But if his head is in the PGA Tour, his heart remains in Europe. He maintains that he will try to play both tours.

“The Rolex Series [that the European Tour] created [is] phenomenal,” Uihlein said. “So there's so many good events over there, you don't really want to miss because there's countries I love going, events I like playing and there's courses I really enjoy over there. It's going to be tough.”

It’s well-chronicled that Uihlein chose the road less traveled in his professional career. Instead of starting on the Web.com Tour as a path to the PGA Tour, he went to Europe, played on the Challenge Tour and graduated to the European Tour in 2013. While he was busy traveling the world, he thought that the European Tour offered him the best chance to raise his world ranking, which would have been an unusual avenue to the PGA Tour. In the process, he found himself liking where he worked.

“I've been very fortunate with my upbringing and who my father is and the opportunities I've had,” said Uihlein, who is the son of Wally Uihlein, the president and CEO of Acushnet, the parent company of Titleist. “And you know, in Bradenton in high school I was in a bubble. I go to college at Oklahoma State, you're in a bubble. 

“And all of a sudden, my first event as a pro I get thrown on a plane to India. So, you go there for the first time, really not leaving the country [but] very rarely, and then all of a sudden you go to India. Man, this is totally different. It's a different world. It's different cultures, just a different environment. And you know, you get to see things I never would have seen if I didn't leave America.”

Uihlein will be making some critical life decisions in the coming weeks. Hartford or Hong Kong? Memphis or Malaysia? San Antonio or St. Andrews? Which would you choose?

Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email: golfedit@gmail.com; Twitter: @mikepurkeygolf