Brooks Koepka adds Graduate of the Year Award
After a stunning breakthrough season on The European Tour which culminated in a maiden victory at the Turkish Airlines Open by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Brooks Koepka has added another prestigious accolade by winning the 2014 Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year award.
The American becomes the second winner of the award, which is presented to the highest-ranked player in The Race to Dubai to have graduated from the Challenge Tour the previous season.
Koepka’s remarkable rise to world prominence began in 2012, when the Floridian opted to follow in the footsteps of his compatriot and close friend Peter Uihlein by beginning his professional career on Europe’s top developmental tour.
It did not take long for him to make his mark, winning once in the 2012 season before three victories in the 2013 campaign – in the Montecchia Golf Open, the Fred Olsen Challenge de España and the Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts – earned him automatic graduation to The European Tour.
The 24 year old continued his rapid progress to the highest echelons of world golf this year with a top five finish in the US Open Championship and a top 15 finish in the US PGA Championship, before claiming his maiden European Tour title at the Turkish Airlines Open.
Koepka’s eighth place finish in The Race to Dubai means he has inscribed his name alongside that of the inaugural Graduate of the Year Award winner, Justin Walters of South Africa, with Englishman Tyrrell Hatton his closest challenger to the title in 2014 having finished 36th in the season-long rankings.
“It’s unbelievable to win this award,” said Koepka. “It’s the tour that I started on and it always holds a special place in my heart, so it’s neat to do this.
“Winning is winning, it doesn’t matter where. As long as you’re learning how to win I think your game will grow, especially in those early years, and it was a huge part of my success this year.
“I know guys in the States might not give the Challenge Tour the credit it deserves, but you look at all these great players in Europe and they’ve all started out there and worked their way up to The European Tour, and now they’re some of the most successful players in the world.
“There’s a correlation between starting on the Challenge Tour and learning the process of being a professional golfer and growing your game.
“I think it really helps you, not just to become a better golfer, but to be a better person. I was a geography major in school, so I saw a lot of these places on the map and didn’t think I’d ever be there. But I look at the places I’ve been to, the likes of India, Kazakhstan and Kenya – it’s taken me to places I never would have dreamed of.”
Alain de Soultrait, Director of the European Challenge Tour, said: “There could be no more fitting winner of this year’s Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year Award than Brooks Koepka.
“His incredible success on The European Tour this year comes as no surprise to those of us who watched closely his rise through the Challenge Tour. We knew we had something special on our hands with Brooks, and we congratulate him on all his success this year.
“Brooks has epitomised a rising trend on our tour, with many young players from the American collegiate system crossing the Atlantic to begin their professional careers in Europe and work their way through our system.
“Having gained confidence early on with four wins on the Challenge Tour and graduated last year, he is now a top 50 player in the world. This shows that our system definitely works, and will no doubt provide much inspiration to young professionals both in Europe and around the world.”