Peter Uihlein claimed his maiden professional title in superb style at the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal – BPI as the American’s nerveless four under par round of 68 earned him a two-shot victory at Clube de Golf do Santo da Serra.
It was another thrilling day at the stunning mountain-top venue and the crowds were treated to a dramatic hole-in-one from Mark Tullo in the final group, but it was Uihlein who showed the most steel when it mattered most as he flourished on the back nine to march to the title.
Having started the day one shot off overnight leader Tullo, Uihlein got off to a bad start as he bogeyed the first but he atoned for that blemish with back-to-back birdies at the third and fourth.
The 2010 US Amateur Champion, whose father Walter is CEO of major golf apparel and equipment manufacturer Acushnet, could only watch on though, as Tullo found the cup with an eight iron tee shot from 201 yards at the par three fourth.
After picking up another shot at the seventh, Uihlein was knocked back again with two consecutive bogeys just before the turn, but the Floridian came out fighting on the way back with four birdies, including three in a row from the 11th, which left him two shots clear on 15 under par.
The tournament may well have been decided by a play-off as Denmark’s Morten Ørum Madsen was 15 under on the 18th tee, after a stunning run which yielded eight birdies, but the 25 year old suffered a double bogey at the 18th to give Uihlein his first win, in his 16th European Tour appearance.
“I’m just thrilled,” said the 23 year old, who threatened a 59 in the second day’s play before signing for a 64. “To do it playing well on the back nine, coming down the stretch, is sweet. I know Morten played a heck of a round and Mark played really well so it was nice to come out on top.
“I just knuckled down I guess. It was all putting that did it today, I was just trying to free up and they started to roll in so it was nice.
“I hit some good putts coming down the stretch. When I was at the 17th I saw Morten was on 15 under and I thought it might have been a little more difficult but when I got to the 18th green I obviously saw he had dropped back. I’m just delighted to have won.”
Uihlein admitted that his decision to begin his professional career on the Challenge Tour and European Tour, on the advice of his father, was one of the best he ever made, believing he has developed both as a player and a as a man in Europe.
“A year ago I wasn’t even thinking about playing, I was just really struggling,” he said. “It’s a funny game. But I’ve learned a lot over the last year.
“When you’re struggling, it’s one of those things, you hate it when it happens but it’s almost the best thing that could happen to you. It definitely was for me and I’m pretty happy with how things turned out.
“You grow up quick out here and that was the main reason I came over. It’s been a good process so far and hopefully I can keep going.”
Tullo, meanwhile, was disappointed not have emerged victorious on the day he carded a 13th career ace, but the 35 year old is happy with his game after a second top five finish on The European Tour this season.
“It was a very positive week,” said the Santiago native. “I could have won this tournament. I had three bogeys from 100 yards today which hurt a lot, but hats off to Peter. He played really on the back nine and that’s what you need to do to win tournaments.
“I didn’t do that but it was very close and that’s a positive. Maybe there’s something further along the road for me in a big tournament.”
Despite the disappointment of a six on the final hole, Madsen carded an impressive five under par 67 to finish tied second alongside Tullo on 13 under par.
Rhys Davies, meanwhile, earned his best finish of the season far, and a hugely important result for the former European Tour winner with regard to the Challenge Tour Rankings, as a five under par final round 67 left in him tied fifth place.
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