Peter Uihlein: Chambers Bay Champion
By Greg Midland, USGA
Peter Uihlein was born in Massachusetts, went to high school in Florida, attended college at Oklahoma State University and today is a globetrotting member of the PGA European Tour. But the 25-year-old has some good vibes in the Pacific Northwest, something he hopes will serve him well should he qualify for the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay.
In July 2010, Uihlein won the Sahalee Players Championship, a prestigious amateur event which was held that summer at The Home Course, in DuPont, Wash. That trip proved fruitful for another reason: It gave Uihlein his first glimpse of Chambers Bay, as he played the course twice to prepare for the following month’s U.S. Amateur Championship. He credits the reconnaissance with helping him earn his eventual 4-and-2 victory over David Chung.
“It’s a very different style of course, and it’s a lot to grasp after just one practice round,” he said. Once the Amateur arrived, Uihlein had his edge. “I kind of already knew what it was like.”
Helping Uihlein’s cause was an embrace and appreciation of the ground game, an attitude that will likely be seen in whomever is awarded the U.S. Open Trophy on June 21.
“I’ve always enjoyed the creativity of links golf, where you have to hit different types of shots,” said Uihlein, who was the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking when he won the U.S. Amateur. “It fascinates me.”
While not a pure links, Chambers Bay presents similar challenges.
“You have to have good distance control, because you’re sometimes aiming 30 or 40 feet away from flags and allowing the ball to roll closer to the hole,” said Uihlein. “Putting is also key. The course has really big greens and you’re often left with tough lag putts. It’s not a course you can play with smoke and mirrors.”
Uihlein has tasted success as a pro, winning the 2013 Madeira Islands Open in Portugal and earning 2013 PGA European Tour Rookie of the Year honors. On April 19, he rebounded from a series of nagging injuries to finish in a tie for fourth place in the European Tour’s Shenzhen International event. Still, he harbors fond memories of his amateur days, particularly that week in August nearly five years ago.
“Anytime you come back to a place where you’ve had success, you get those good sensations and draw on positive memories,” he said. “To golfers, that’s very important.”
Today, Uihlein is a one-man club, as the only person to win a national championship at Chambers Bay. He desperately wants the chance to keep it that way.