JOHANNESBURG – Erik van Rooyen has become the 2018 European Tour Graduate of the Year after an outstanding breakthrough campaign which saw him finish 38th in the Race to Dubai, 11 places ahead of his nearest rival Marcus Kinhult.
The South African follows Nacho Elvira, Byeong Hun An, Brooks Koepka and compatriots Dylan Frittelli and Justin Walters as a recipient of the distinguished prize, after an excellent season which included a top-five finish in a Rolex Series event and more than one million points earned in the Race to Dubai.
The Graduate of the Year trophy is awarded to the top-ranked player to have graduated from the European Challenge Tour the previous year, and Van Rooyen has been the front runner for the title for the duration of the season.
Carrying on his fine form from the 2017 NBO Golf Classic Grand Final, where he finished in tied third, Van Rooyen made four cuts in his opening five tournaments, including solo second on home soil at the Joburg Open where a final round of 66 saw him jump up the leaderboard.
Another top ten quickly followed, once again, in front of his home fans when he finished 10th at the Tshwane Open, before claiming a share of seventh at the Trophee Hassan II one month later.
In the first two Rolex Series events of the season – the BMW PGA Championship and the Italian Open – Van Rooyen rose up the Race to Dubai Rankings with tied 20th and tied 42nd finishes.
Soon after the South African found himself competing at the very highest level. After carding rounds of 71-65-66 at Ballyliffin Golf Club, Van Rooyen claimed the 54-hole lead at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open ahead of Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy.
Despite finishing the week in a share of fourth place, Van Rooyen’s reputation was growing. After firing his way to the top of the leaderboard with an opening 67 at The Open Championship, his stock continued to rise as he held his own to finish the week in tied 17th in his maiden Major outing.
Part of his stellar rise from the Challenge Tour saw him play the WGC-HSBC Champions last month, where a share of 22nd moved him firmly into pole position for the Graduate of the Year award.
A share of 26th place in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai was enough for Van Rooyen to become the sixth winner of the Graduate of the Year award after finishing the season with 1,178,064 points.
His attention now turns to the 2018 Melbourne World Cup of Golf, where he and close friend, and 2017 Graduate of the Year Frittelli, will now represent South Africa in the prestigious event.
African News Agency (ANA)
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