x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Delighted Els says he knew protege was 'exceptional'

No one was happier than Ernie Els after his South African compatriot and protege Louis Oosthuizen cantered to a seven-shot victory at the 150th anniversary British Open.

Ernie Els during the Open at St Andrews.
Ernie Els during the Open at St Andrews.

ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND // No one was happier than Ernie Els after his South African compatriot and protege Louis Oosthuizen cantered to a seven-shot victory at the 150th anniversary British Open. Oosthuizen, 27, is a graduate of the Ernie Els Golf Foundation, which helps identify and encourage young talent in South Africa. "This is absolutely unbelievable," Els told reporters after Oosthuizen was handed the coveted Claret Jug at St Andrews on Sunday. "It would be difficult to find anybody in the world who is more proud of him right now.

"He comes from a little town on the outskirts of George in South Africa 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. "I could not be happier. He is our first major champion and has made us all very proud." Els, who won the British Open on the Scottish links of Muirfield in 2002 and also triumphed at the US Open in 1994 and 1997, dismissed the possibility that fame would turn Oosthuizen's head after he became South Africa's sixth major winner.

"Louis is now the Open champion," said Els. "His life will change, he won't. "He is simply a wonderful kid. You cannot find a better one." Els, 40, said he knew Oosthuizen, who has rocketed from 54th to 15th in the world rankings, was capable of joining golf's elite. "I thought long before anybody had heard of him that he was going to be an exceptional player," Els said. "He has shot an absolutely stunning 57 at Mossel Bay [on South Africa's Western Cape] which will neither be equalled nor bettered.

"You have something special when you do that. The world might know about him now but even before today he had started his own foundation to help kids who are needy. "They could not have a better role model. Louis cares and he is giving back. He's that sort of person. The kid is different class." * Reuters