The 2010 U.S. Amateur champion got reacquainted with the city after playing in last year’s Masters Tournament. He returned this week to the area for his pro debut on American soil.
“I get to see all the places I ate earlier. It’s cool,” he said. “Everybody relates Augusta with the Masters. It’s pretty awesome.”
Making his first start on the NGA Tour, Uihlein posted 2-over-par 74 in the first round of the Kandy Waters Memorial Classic at Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club.
Uihlein trails leader Robby Ormand by 11 shots. Spears opened with a bogey-
free 63 for a one-shot lead. Casey Johnson, of Martinez, eagled his final hole – the par-5 ninth – to open with 72, while former Augusta State golfer Major Manning shot 74.
Mount Vintage director of golf Ryan Mulvey posted 81, while North Augusta’s Kyle Bradley, a Monday qualifier, shot 79.
Uihlein of Orlando, Fla., posted four birdies and six bogeys, shooting even-par on the par-5 holes. He hit just one driver off the tee all day, going with a 3-wood instead. Even with the 3-wood, he said length wasn’t an issue because, “the ball’s going forever.”
“I’ve been struggling for a little while, particularly off the tee,” Uihlein said. “I felt like today I hit more tee balls straighter than I have been. I just putted terribly, which I usually do really well. But from a standpoint of things I’ve been working on, I did those pretty well.”
Uihlein, a former Oklahoma State standout, left school a semester early, turning professional in January. He’s played in four European Tour events this year and is likely guaranteed three more starts. He’s also playing overseas on the Challenge Tour, where his best finish is a 12th place showing.
“It’s not bad,” he said, adding his main adjustments have been to the differences in food and time. “I’ve enjoyed my time over there. It’s nice to have some starts and some places to play.”
Uihlein, who’s posted a 73.9 stroke average in 13 rounds on the European Tour and Challenge Tour, said he’s still trying to get his entire game in order at once.
If he hits the ball well off the tee, he struggles with his short game. Or vice versa.
“Every golfer goes through phases where nothing seems to go right,” he said. “That’s kind of how it’s been. I’m definitely working at it and clawing back at it. It’s not for the lack of effort. It’s one of those things where you have to keep your mind right and your head clear and know it’ll eventually turn around.”
Uihlein, 22, plans to play in the next NGA Tour event in two weeks in Kentucky.
The following week, he’ll play his second PGA Tour event of the year at Colonial – he missed the cut in March at Puerto Rico.