Cape Town - Dylan Frittelli has been crowned the European Tour Graduate of the Year after an outstanding breakthrough campaign which saw him finish 19th in the 2017 Race to Dubai - five places ahead of his nearest rival Jordan Smith.
The Graduate of the Year trophy is awarded to the top-ranked player to have graduated from the European Challenge Tour the previous year.
The South African follows Nacho Elvira, Byeong Hun An, Brooks Koepka and his compatriot Justin Walters as a recipient of the prestigious prize, after an excellent rookie season which included a maiden European Tour title and more than 1.5 million points earned in the Race to Dubai.
While Smith led the way for most of 2017, it was Frittelli's performances in the season-ending Rolex Series tournaments which ultimately secured him the honour.
The 27-year-old played his way into three Rolex Series events which concluded the 2017 Race to Dubai with a victory at the Lyoness Open and top-five performances at the Shenzhen International and the China Open - where he lost out to Alexander Levy in a play-off.
Having made the cut in his PGA Championship debut in August, Frittelli came close to another title in two of the three season-ending Rolex Series events.
After an excellent closing round at the Turkish Airlines Open - a seven under par 64 which included three chip-ins in four holes - the Johannesburg-born golfer nearly made it into a second play-off of the year before Justin Rose birdied the last hole to win by one.
In the final event of the season, the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, Frittelli once again went toe-to-toe with some of the world's leading players and challenged for the title down the stretch before finishing in a share of fourth place.
After finishing his rookie campaign with a European Tour trophy and a total of 1 602 951 points, Frittelli admitted the experience he gained on the Challenge Tour has been key to his meteoric rise this term.
"All in all it has been a great year," said Frittelli, who won once and recorded nine top ten finishes to graduate from the Challenge Tour in 2016. "I have played a lot of great golf and have a lot of great memories.
"Performance-wise I would have liked to have been a little more consistent, I had a few ups and downs, but I guess that's the nature of the European Tour having not played a full season before.
"It was great to win in Austria - to win at least one tournament was a big goal of mine this year. We had two rookies win tournaments, Jordan Smith had a great season too, and I am proud of how I competed throughout the year.
"With four weeks left part of me thought 'the season is pretty much over' but then I said to myself 'let's not look at it like that, let's power home as well as I can in those big money events'. That is what has been the key in winning this award.
"The Challenge Tour definitely honed my skills and made me a better golfer as well as a better person having travelled to so many places - in my first season I went to 17 countries that I had never been to before.
"It was a growing phase for me. I spent three and a bit years on the Challenge Tour and it was a lot of hard work - but I am definitely better for that experience."
Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, said: "Dylan has been extremely impressive on the European Tour this year and has shown what can be achieved after graduating from the Challenge Tour.
"To finish inside the top 20 in the Race to Dubai during your rookie season is a fantastic achievement, and Dylan has consistently shown this year that he has all the attributes of a top player who is a deserving winner of the Graduate of the Year award."
Alain de Soultrait, director of the Challenge Tour, said: "We are very proud of Dylan's achievements on the European Tour this season and he is another worthy winner of the Graduate of the Year award.
"The consistency Dylan showed on the Challenge Tour in 2016, winning once and finishing inside the top ten nine times, proved he was a talented player and it is fantastic to see him continue to excel on the European Tour this year.
"Dylan joins Nacho Elvira, Ben An and Brooks Koepka as great ambassadors for our tour and offers further evidence that the Challenge Tour produces golfers of the highest quality who are ready to compete on the world stage after they graduate."
Frittelli is currently taking part in the Mauritius Open at the Heritage Golf Club.