Oosthuizen's Royal links with Ireland
Published 20/07/2010 | 05:00
NEWLY CROWNED British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen's long march to international golfing glory began on the hallowed fairways of Royal Dublin, he revealed yesterday.
Still cradling the Claret Jug he'd lifted at St Andrews on Sunday, Oosthuizen (27) said his victory in the 2002 Irish Amateur Open had been the launch pad for his career.
Just 19 at that time and No 1 player in South Africa's Southern Cape Province, Oosthuizen was given the chance to play in the international golfing arena for the first time at Royal Dublin thanks to the Ernie Els Foundation.
And just as he did on the Old Course last Sunday, he grabbed it with both hands, defying strong sea breezes as he claimed a win which he recalled in fine detail yesterday morning, even if his Open victory celebrations had extended into the small hours of the morning.
"Yeah, that was my first international win," Oosthuizen confirmed, expressing particular delight at his final tee shot at the Garden, Royal Dublin's famous 18th hole. "It definitely boosted my self-confidence.
"A friend of mine, Albert Kruger, caddied for me and when we got to 18, a 90-degree dogleg right, the wind was in off the left and blowing pretty hard," he said with a broad smile.
"The tee shot I hit there, Albert just looked at me and said he'd never seen anyone hit a driver that hard and that straight, so that was pretty special.
"You know, I three-putted the hole but then Paul Bradshaw, the English player, also three-putted the last for me to win by one."
In a fascinating twist, Birr's Justin Kehoe finished third that day, with Athlone man Colm Moriarty in sixth . . . and their paths crossed with Oosthuizen's once again at St Andrews.
Moriarty played with Oosthuizen in the first two rounds at the Open and had former World Universities champion Kehoe, his regular caddie on the European Challenge Tour this season, on the bag!
While the South African posted rounds of 65 and 67 to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend and set up a comprehensive victory at the Home of Golf, Moriarty performed impressively in his first Major, finishing tied-37th with fellow Open debutant Shane Lowry.
Oosthuizen certainly is not the only man to complete the Irish Amateur and British Open championship double.
Padraig Harrington followed up on his Irish Amateur win in 1995 by lifting the Claret Jug in 2007 and again in 2008.
Further back in history, England's Harold Hilton held both titles at the same time, in 1897. He also won the British Open in 1892, while he dominated the Irish amateur event in 1900, '01 and '02.
And John Ball, British Open winner in 1890, reigned supreme across the water in Ireland in 1893, '94 and '99.