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The Open 2010: call from Gary Player helps Louis Oosthuizen calm nerves to claim win

Louis Oosthuizen did not take long to realise the significance of winning the Open Championship for South Africa on Nelson Mandela's 92nd birthday.

While he did not know if the country's former president and anti-apartheid icon was a fan of links golf, Oosthuizen said: "When I walked down the 18th, I was thinking about his birthday. It felt a bit special out there.

"I saw it in the morning on the news, on the internet. What he has done for our country is unbelievable, so happy birthday to him once again."

The son of a sheep farmer in Mossel Bay, Oosthuizen, a picture of composure for all four rounds, found his voice quavered as he made his Open acceptance speech with the Claret Jug in hand.

"I want to thank my mum and dad for helping me since I was very small," the 27 year-old said.

He reserved effusive gratitude, too, for Ernie Els, whose foundation supported Oosthuizen for three years before he turned professional.

Without the three-time major champion as his benefactor, he maintained that it would have been impossible for his parents to fund his development.

Els returned the compliment, saying: "Louis is simply a wonderful kid. You cannot find a better one and I am so pleased for him.

"He comes from a little town and needed help, so we took him into the foundation and sent him to various tournaments around the world. He is our first major champion and has made us all very proud."

Oosthuizen is so wonderful, indeed, that he left champagne for all the journalists in the press tent.

He also disclosed that he had received a phone call Saturday morning from Gary Player, the three-time Open champion, to galvanise him for the day.

"We had a little chat; he spoke in my home language, Afrikaans. He was saying, 'just stay calm out there.' It meant a lot, him phoning me up. He's just a great guy.

"He told me to have a lot of fun and that the crowd was probably going to be on Paul's side.

"But then he told me the story when he played against Arnold Palmer when he won his first Masters. He said they wanted to throw stuff at him, but he was so focused on beating him in Augusta."

For Charl Schwartzel, his best friend among the ranks of emerging young South African golfers, the reaction was of incredulity.

"It's phenomenal," he said. "He has done an unbelievable thing. The guy has just outplayed everyone, and that has made him the Open champion."

The last word was best left to wife Nel-Mare, looking on by the 18th, her pride only too plain: "It's amazing, the highlight of his career. Earlier we just relaxed and cracked jokes. I can't believe what's happening."

© Telegraph.co.uk