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Peter Uihlein fine on other side of Atlantic

Peter Uihlein, from IMG Academy in Bradenton, is playing on the European Tour but is at Innisbrook on a sponsor exemption.

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Peter Uihlein, from IMG Academy in Bradenton, is playing on the European Tour but is at Innisbrook on a sponsor exemption.

PALM HARBOR — Peter Uihlein is part of a wave of young professionals expected to take the PGA Tour by storm. Uihlein, 24, is a graduate of IMG's golf academy in Bradenton and was named the top college golfer in the country as a junior at Oklahoma State.

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He won the 2010 U.S. Amateur Championship, was a member of the 2009 Walker Cup team and won the 2009 New Year's Invitational at St. Petersburg Country Club.

As talented as Uihlein is, his long-term goal is not to play full time on the PGA Tour. He is a member of the European Tour, and he doesn't plan to change that any time soon.

"I like it in Europe," Uihlein said. "Ideally I would play on both tours. Right now I'm only focused on playing in Europe. It's a lot of fun and so far I'm playing well."

Uihlein spent 2012 on the Challenge Tour, a second-tier circuit in Europe. He won the Madeira Islands Open last season and earned full status on this year's European Tour. In five events, he has one top-10 finish.

He is in the Valspar Championship thanks to a sponsor's exemption. The goal this year is to play well enough to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour.

This is the third time Uihlein has played in the tournament at Innisbrook. He missed the cut last year and tied for 57th in 2011.

"I like coming back here," Uihlein said. "I think it's a great golf course. It's one of the best we play all year.

"My focus this week is to have fun and enjoy it. This game's hard enough. You don't want to put pressure on yourself because it's only going to make you collapse."

Uihlein said he plans on staying in the United States until after the Masters, though he is not yet qualified to play in it. He shares an apartment in Palm Beach Gardens with fellow European Tour member and former Florida State golfer Brooks Koepka.

Old guys rule: There is no shortage of experienced players at the Valspar. Taking them lightly would be a mistake.

Of the 12 players in the field who are 45 or older, three have won this tournament: Mark Calcavecchia (53), Vijay Singh (51) and Retief Goosen (45). Ken Duke, 45, tied for fifth in 2012.

Add in Davis Love III, 49, and David Toms, 47, who are dangerous in any tournament.

The six others 45 and over: Tampa native Woody Austin (50), Stephen Ames (49), Paul Goydos (49), John Daly (47), Jerry Kelly (47) and Darren Clarke (45). While they haven't won in a while, Daly and Clarke are former major championship winners.

Today: The pro-am begins at 7:40 a.m. The second wave of tee times start at 12:30 p.m. and Golf Channel will air coverage from 5-6. Some of the pros playing in the morning include Daly, Luke Donald, Jim Furyk and Boo Weekley. Some of the afternoon pros include Love, Ernie Els, Stewart Cink and Jason Dufner.

. FAST FACTS

Valspar Championship

When/where: The PGA Tour event is Thursday-Sunday, Innisbrook Resort, Copperhead Course, Palm Harbor

Purse: $5.7 million ($1,026,000 winner's share)

Defending champion: Kevin Streelman

Field: 156 players

Schedule: Today — pro-am, 7:40 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.; Thursday — first round (morning and afternoon tee times); Friday — second round (morning and afternoon tee times); Saturday — third round; Sunday — final round

Tickets: Daily tickets are $30 until today at Publix or valsparchampionship.com, $40 at the gate during the tournament. Admission is free today. Kids 15 and under are free with a ticketed adult. Active or retired military and dependants are free.

Security: There have been changes to security this year. No bags larger than 6-by-6 inches will be allowed. For a complete list of prohibited items, go to valsparchampionship.com.

Peter Uihlein fine on other side of Atlantic 03/11/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 9:29pm]
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