Els: ‘I’ve never been so proud’

Louis Oosthuizen has been highly praised by Ernie Els who has held him up as a shining star of his golf Foundation.

A delighted Els, a former Open winner himself who missed the cut this year, was effusive in his praise for Oosthuizen, who was a member of the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation for three years from 2000.

“I would like to congratulate Louis Oosthuizen on his fantastic victory today – it could not have happened to a better person.

“Speaking for our Foundation, we are very proud of him. It is a dream come true for us, as this is exactly what we want to see in providing opportunities for talented young golfers in South Africa.

“In starting our Foundation, I wanted to give talented young golfers the same opportunities that I was given. This has exceeded my greatest expectations. Where, in your whole life, could you hope for a better story?

“I played a practice round with him last Sunday and, typically for him, he didn’t give himself a chance. He is a quiet and unassuming guy, but he has shown everyone what a great champion he is.

“We give our members at the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation great opportunities and Louis has shown what can be done. This will do so much for our members, past, present and future.

“I would like to thank all the staff, my family and the Board of the Foundation for the wonderful work that they do. In a way, this shows that we are doing the right thing and it shows that there are systems in place in SA golf that really work. We have a fantastic group of young South Africans who are carrying the flag .

“I was very honoured that Louis thanked me in his victory speech – he didn’t have to do that. The way he has made use of his opportunities will always be thanks enough. I don’t think I have ever been so proud!”

In another interview on Monday, Els told PA “I could not be happier. Louis is simply a wonderful kid. You cannot find a better one.

“He comes from a little town and needed help, so we took him into the Foundation and educated him and sent him to various tournaments around the country and also the world.

“He is our first major champion. I thought long before anybody had heard of him that he was going to be an exceptional player.

“He has shot an absolutely stunning 57 (14 under par) at Mossel Bay, which will never be equalled nor bettered. You have something special when you do that.”

That round, containing 12 birdies and a chip-in eagle at the 17th, was in 2002 just after Oosthuizen had left the amateur ranks as world junior champion, but it took him until this March to win his first European Tour title.

Oosthuizen, known as ‘Shrek’ or ‘Shrekie’ to his fvriends on the Sunshine Tour, could hardly be faulted for his all-round performance over the four days.

His 20 birdies were matched only by US Open champion Graeme McDowell, but while McDowell’s 13 bogeys and two double bogeys (both at the 17th) put him joint 23rd with Woods amongst others, Oosthuizen dropped only six shots and sank a 45-foot eagle putt during his closing 71.
Nobody hit more fairways than his 55 out of 64, yet with an average of 319.4 yards he ranked fourth in driving distance behind only Alvaro Quiros, Dustin Johnson and Ross Fisher.
Oosthuizen’s 60 out of 72 greens in regulation were only two fewer than category leader Edoardo Molinari and with 121 putts over the four days he was third behind Alejandro Canizares and Ricky Barnes, who had just one fewer.
Much has been made of how British and Irish golf is on the up with eight players in the world’s top 18, but South Africans are making their presence felt too.
Els is sixth, Oosthuizen 15th, Retief Goosen 16th, Tim Clark 24th and Charl Schwartzel 27th.