Open Champion Oosthuizen indebted to Els Foundation
Newly-crowned Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen may have just become the fourth South African to triumph at golf’s oldest Major, but he was quick to credit the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation, an initiative which currently receives £10,000 per annum from The R&A, as the catalyst for his success.
The Ernie Els Foundation, which teamed up with the Fancourt Hotel and Golf Estate in 2006, was founded in 1999 with the purpose of identifying and assisting talented young individuals, predominantly from families of limited resources. It aims to deliver educational assistance and playing opportunities in order to produce successful young leaders, while developing playing ability to its full potential.
The 27-year-old spent three years in the programme, becoming a member in 2000 and rising to become the Foundation’s captain in 2002. He is the first Open Champion to have been produced by an R&A-supported programme headed by a former winner of the Claret Jug.
“It was perfect timing when the Ernie Els Foundation started and came along,” explained Oosthuizen. “You know, we took a big shot asking to get into the foundation, and Ernie immediately accepted.
“At that time I wasn't playing for South Africa, I was still just playing for Southern Cape, which was the provincial side where I grew up, and about six months after I was in the foundation, I got picked for SA Juniors and then eventually SA Seniors. And it went on from there.”
2002 Open Champion Ernie Els said: "I would like to congratulate Louis on his fantastic victory; it could not have happened to a better person."
"I played a practice round with him 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."
"You could tell he was special," recalled Hannes van Nierkerk, CEO of the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation. "He was captain of the team and even at an early age you could see he had fantastic qualities. To be honest, he was always a bit above the rest, so I'm not surprised. He's a wonderful kid and a great role model."
The R&A now supports the development work of five Open Champions on five continents. In addition to the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation in South Africa, financial assistance is given to the Paul Lawrie Foundation in Scotland; Arnold Palmer’s international collegiate match between Europe and the USA, the Palmer Cup; the Greg Norman Foundation in Australia; and Sir Nick Faldo’s Series in Europe and Asia, which hold events worldwide.