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Välimäki crowned Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year

8.58am 16th December 2020 - Sponsorship

Sami Välimäki has become the first Finnish player to be named the European Tour’s Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year after an impressive 2020 campaign which included a maiden win at March’s Oman Open and culminated in a top five finish at the season-ending Rolex Series event, the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.

The 22-year-old’s first season on the European Tour comprised seven top ten finishes, including his victory in Oman, a runner-up finish in Wales and a top five in last week’s finale, which helped him finish 11th in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex.

Välimäki, who earned his European Tour card through Qualifying School last year, sealed victory in just his sixth European Tour start at the Oman Open in March, overcoming South Africa’s Brandon Stone in a play-off at Almouj Golf.

After the European Tour’s four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Välimäki rekindled that early season form at the UK Swing’s double-header at Celtic Manor Resort in Wales, where a top ten in the Celtic Classic was followed directly by a runner-up finish in the ISPS HANDA Wales Open – losing out to Romain Langasque by two strokes.

A top ten in the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters followed two weeks later and, after making his Major Championship debut in September’s U.S. Open, he picked up another strong finish courtesy of a share of sixth place at the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Open in November.

The former European Amateur Team Championship winner with Finland entered the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in 18th position on the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, before producing one of the best performances of his career over the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Playing alongside the would-be Race to Dubai Champion Lee Westwood in the final round, Välimäki enjoyed a stunning start with four birdies in the opening five holes. He signed for a fourth successive 69 for a share of fifth place, elevating him to 11th place in the final Race to Dubai Rankings.

“I am absolutely delighted to receive the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award,” said Välimäki, from Nokia in the south of Finland. “It became a goal of mine, especially going into last week in Dubai, so it is an incredible feeling to finish it off with a strong final performance of 2020, and to be the first player from Finland to get this award is really special.

“I had a dream start to my season really, by winning so early in Oman and then the season was put on hold just a few weeks later. I am really proud of how I performed after the return to golf and some of the results I had, especially my performance at the DP World Tour Championship. Winning a tournament was a target for me and to win this award is amazing.”

Välimäki was chosen as Rookie of the Year by a panel comprising the European Tour’s Chief Operating Officer Keith Waters, Deputy Director of Tournament Operations David Probyn, and two members of the Tournament Committee,  Chairman and European Tour Board Member David Howell and former European Tour Number One Robert Karlsson.

He joins an impressive list of former winners which include Sir Nick Faldo (1977), Martin Kaymer (2007), Brooks Koepka (2014) and Jon Rahm (2017), all of whom have gone on to become World Number One.

Keith Waters, the European Tour’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “Many congratulations to Sami for a truly superb campaign on the European Tour and for making history by becoming the first Finn to win the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award.

“It was another very good year for rookies on the European Tour, with Denmark’s Rasmus Højgaard a strong contender after also demonstrating his incredible talent with two victories and finishing top of the UK Swing mini Order of Merit.

“However, the panel ultimately chose Sami for his performances across the entire season, including a victory at the Oman Open in just his sixth appearance and a fine performance in the DP World Tour Championship, with four other top tens in between, as he finished 11th in the Race to Dubai. That is a fine achievement for any rookie and testament to his character and undoubted talent, making him a deserving winner of this award.”

Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year winners:                     

 1960   Tommy Goodwin (ENG)

 1961   Alex Caygill (ENG)

 1963   Tony Jacklin (ENG)

 1966   Robin Liddle (SCO)

 1968   Bernard Gallacher (SCO)

 1969   Peter Oosterhuis (ENG)

 1970   Stuart Brown (ENG)

 1971   David Llewellyn (WAL)

 1972   Sam Torrance (SCO)

 1973   Philip Elson (ENG)

 1974   Carl Mason (ENG)

 1976   Mark James (ENG)

 1977   Sir Nick Faldo (ENG)

 1978   Sandy Lyle (SCO)

 1979   Mike Miller (SCO)

 1980   Paul Hoad (ENG)

 1981   Jeremy Bennett (ENG)

 1982   Gordon Brand Jnr. (SCO)

 1983   Grant Turner (ENG)

 1984   Philip Parkin (WAL)

 1985   Paul Thomas (WAL)

 1986   José María Olazábal (ESP)

 1987   Peter Baker (ENG)

 1988   Colin Montgomerie (SCO)

 1989   Paul Broadhurst (ENG)

 1990   Russell Claydon (ENG)

 1991   Per-Ulrik Johansson (SWE)

 1992   Jim Payne (ENG)

 1993   Gary Orr (SCO)

 1994   Jonathan Lomas (ENG)

 1995   Jarmo Sandelin (SWE)

 1996   Thomas Björn (DEN)

 1997   Scott Henderson (SCO)

 1998   Olivier Edmond (FRA)

 1999   Sergio Garcia (ESP)

 2000   Ian Poulter (ENG)

 2001   Paul Casey (ENG)

 2002   Nick Dougherty (ENG)

 2003   Peter Lawrie (IRL)

 2004   Scott Drummond (SCO)

 2005   Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño (ESP)

 2006   Marc Warren (SCO)

 2007   Martin Kaymer (GER)

 2008   Pablo Larrazábal (ESP)

 2009   Chris Wood (ENG)

 2010   Matteo Manassero (ITA)

 2011   Tom Lewis (ENG)

 2012   Ricardo Santos (POR)

 2013   Peter Uihlein (USA)

 2014   Brooks Koepka (USA)

 2015   Byeong Hun An (KOR)

 2016   Jeunghun Wang (KOR)

 2017   Jon Rahm (ESP)

 2018   Shubhankar Sharma (IND)

 2019   Robert MacIntyre (SCO)

 2020   Sami Välimäki (FIN)

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