English golfer Tom Lewis named as the European Tour's Rookie of the Year
Lewis won only his third tournament as a pro at October's Portugal Masters
The 20-year-old led the British Open after the first round and won the Silver Medal
The 2012 schedule will start in Africa on January 5 and end in Dubai on November 25
British golfer Tom Lewis has been rewarded for an outstanding first season as a professional by being named as the European Tour’s rookie of the year.
The 20-year-old from England rose to prominence at July’s British Open by shooting an opening-round 65 to lead the field and equal the lowest round by an amateur at a major.
It was the first time a non-professional player had led golf’s oldest major since Michael Bonallack in 1968.
Lewis eventually finished tied 30th at Sandwich to secure the Silver Medal for the tournament’s highest-placed amateur, before claiming victory in only his third event as a professional at October’s Portugal Masters.
“I appreciate this honor very much. It certainly tops off what has been an amazing year,” Lewis told the European Tour’s website on Monday after being given the Henry Cotton award.
Cotton was a legendary British golfer who died at the age of 80 in 1987. He won three British Opens between 1934 and 1948, and achieved 17 professional victories.
“I think my dad is more excited about me winning this award than my first tour victory in October!” Lewis said.
“I am very proud to be named the Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year and I feel very fortunate as there were some strong contenders for this title who played consistently well all season.”
Lewis also helped Britain and Ireland to victory over the United States in the amateur Walker Cup match, as well as registering a top-10 finish at September’s Austrian Golf Open – his first event as a pro.
By triumphing in only his third pro tournament, Lewis also surpassed the achievement of 14-time major winner Tiger Woods. The American took five events to record his first win.
“It’s been a rollercoaster year,” said Lewis. “I didn’t perform very well in the first half then had the honor of playing with Tom Watson (who Lewis is named after) in the first two rounds of the (British) Open, managing to share the first-round lead.
“It was wonderful to win the Silver Medal and shoot 65 in the first round, but I think people will remember the 65 in Portugal because it secured my first professional win.
“It was a great year and a privilege to be part of the winning Walker Cup team in my final amateur event. But now I have a two-year exemption on the European Tour and can’t wait to get started in 2012.”
Peter Uihlein, the second best amateur at Sandwich in July, announced on Monday that he will be turning professional next year – but will play European Tour events rather than in his native U.S.
The 22-year-old, who won the 2010 U.S. Amateur title and was top-ranked among the non-paid ranks, will make his debut at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship alongside the likes of Tiger Woods.
He has joined agent Andrew “Chubby” Chandler at International Sports Management, which has world No. 2 Lee Westwood and British Open champion Darren Clarke among its top names.
“Those players who have played on the tour, and who are still members, make for a pretty impressive list. I just feel the ISM team is well-positioned to help me achieve my goals,” said Uihlein, who missed out in qualifying schools for the European and U.S. circuits so must rely on invites.
The European Tour’s 2012 schedule was confirmed on Monday, starting with the Africa Open in South Africa on January 5 and culminating with the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai ending on November 25.
It will include tournaments on all five continents, while the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in Scotland from August 23-26 will be the final counting event for players hoping to qualify for the 2012 Ryder Cup teams event.