He glanced over and noticed me and my Oklahoma State hat, striding alongside him. With a smile, he flashed the hand-pistol-sign (do we have a name for that?) in my direction.
"You're a long way from Stillwater, bro."
"Hah. You too. Birdie this one!" (he didn't)
Having just turned 24 in September, however, Uihlein has already put together a very impressive resume. In 2010, he won the US Amateur Championship (the last Cowboy to win? Scott Verplank in 1984). While on campus, he also earned the Ben Hogan Award -- awarded to the best college golfer in the nation. Uihlein left Oklahoma State to turn pro in 2011 (though the Swingin' Pete logo remains on his golf bag), and last weekend's tournament in Dubai marked the end of his first full season on the European Tour. Uihlein finished the season with 8 top ten finishes, including two runner-up performances and his first professional win at the Madeira Islands Open in Portugal. He finished 14th in overall points in the Race to Dubai (essentially the European Tour's FedEx Cup), and (according to his mom) was the first American to ever play in the Race to Dubai's final event -- the DP World Tour Championship. After the tournament, he was awarded the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award… the first American to ever earn that honor (interview here). He's currently ranked 64th in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Also, he's a pretty cool dude.
Perhaps my favorite part about getting to watch Uihlein, was being reminded how much of a kid he still is. You can see it in the way he plays the game…
"Wait, are you saying you want to go for the green?!" -Caddy
"Well yeah. Why not?" -Uihlein
"Because you're in a bunker." -Caddy
"Hahahahaha!" -Me (but quietly, because it's golf)
...and in the way he was so willing to chat with me about Stillwater, my degree, which fraternity I was in, mutual friends we have, etc. -- throughout his round. Which, his round wasn't going super well, by the way. I'll take the blame for that, though. I'm very handsome and I've been told it can be distracting.
On the 11th green, Uihlein's mom tapped me on the shoulder and whispered "Go Pokes!" Tina Uihlein travels with her son all over the world to watch him play in tournaments. On the walk between the 16th green and 17th tee box, she pulled a pair of bananas out of her backpack and tossed them to him -- what appeared to be an unspoken ritual. It was fun to watch and was another reminder that he's just a kid playing golf. Impossible not to be a fan of that.
Uihlein says he's excited for a well-deserved rest after a long first season on tour, but that he looks to build on his success in 2014. I look forward to following what will undoubtedly be an impressive career.