Young friends ... to major champions

By Jason SobelJune 15, 2011, 3:58 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – The year was 1994. Ernie Els was in the midst of cementing his legacy as a South African hero, earning his first career U.S. Open victory at the tender age of 24.

Halfway around the world, his countrymen burst with pride. They celebrated the victory, reveling in the success of their nation’s greatest golfer since Gary Player was swashbuckling his way to history.

A pair of young boys – grown men now – recall watching the victory, but have a more indelible golf memory from that time in their lives.

Louis Oosthuizen was 12 years old and already a budding young superstar on the South African junior circuit. Charl Schwartzel was nearly two full years younger, already in awe of the kid he now remembers as “the great Oosthuizen.”

Serendipity paired them together in the stroke-play portion of the S.A. Boys junior championship. Well, serendipity and an open tee time.

Schwartzel was scheduled to commence his round on the 10th tee at Randpark Golf Club in Johannesburg, but his playing partner failed to show. So he found Oosthuizen, already two hours early for his original tee time, and asked if he’d like to join him for the day.

“I remember it like yesterday,” Schwartzel recalls. “Louis was an established junior golfer. He was quite a lot better than I was. I was obviously very young.

“I got really nervous. I mean Louis is like …” – and with this, he emphatically arches his eyebrows and spreads his hands – “… Louis! You've got to be joking! And that's where we met.”

Despite his innate talent, Oosthuizen didn’t make much of an impression on his younger competitor.

“I'll never forget,” Schwartzel says, “I think he three-putted the first hole and he had quite a temper on him; he really got cross. And I was very surprised. I looked at my dad and I was like, ‘Do you see that?’”

“I had a very bad temper, I remember that,” Oosthuizen explains. “I hated it when I didn't make any putts. And he always tells me his dad said, ‘Wow, this kid has a bad temper. He's bad news.’ So it was always like that.”

It may not sound like the start of a beautiful friendship, but throughout the years Schwartzel and Oosthuizen blossomed and matured as golfers together. Each born the son of a farmer, they understood the concept of hard work and didn’t mind applying it to their games.

They were among the first recipients of the Ernie Els Foundation, an organization dedicated to identifying and growing South Africa’s best junior golfers. And grow they did, eventually turning professional, each winning tournaments around the globe at the highest levels.

Anyone in attendance for that initial meeting at Randpark – and chances are Charl’s father, George, was the only one – could see the boys had some skill, but no one could have predicted that less than two decades later these two best friends would own two of the game’s most prestigious championships.

Oosthuizen would claim the claret jug in historic fashion, winning by seven strokes at St. Andrews at 27 years old. Nine months later, Schwartzel would counter by earning a green jacket, posting birdies on his final four holes at Augusta National to become a Masters champion at the age of 26.

“It's just great to have a friend like him on Tour and to have the same success,” Oosthuizen says. “I think the two of us feed off each other quite a lot. If he plays well, I want to play well. And if I play well, he wants to, as well. It's good. It's really good what we have going for us.”

This week they both come to Congressional Country Club as underdogs for yet another major championship, overlooked winners despite prevailing in momentous fashion.

Nor should it be overlooked that the man who won the last U.S. Open on this course had a major hand in the development of his fellow South Africans – whether he admits it or not.

“Obviously I had a bit of a hand in Louis and Charl, but they were born with the talent,” Els contends. “They had the drive, inner drive within themselves. Even without our help, I'm sure they would have made it to where they are today.”

Two unassuming farmboys, quickly ascending to the ranks of the world’s best, making history on the game’s grandest stages.

And to think: It all started that one day some 17 years ago.

“We've sat back and just said, ‘You know, you actually see what we've done, where we came from’” Schwartzel says. “We are very proud of it.”

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

Getty Images

Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


Playing with the pros

Tiger, DJ and Faxon

Article: Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

Article: After DJ and Tiger, Trump plays golf with Jack

Rory faces criticism

Article: Rory: Round with Trump about respect for presidency

Article: Rory: Round with Trump not a 'political statement'


President at the Presidents Cup


Video: President Trump makes the rounds at Liberty National

Article: President Trump presents trophy to U.S. team

Article: Stricker: 'Great thrill' to get trophy from Trump


Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham

Article: Senator tweets Trump shot 73 in windy, wet conditions

Article: Graham offers details on Trump's round of 73


Cart on the green


Article: Trump appears to drive cart on Bedminster green


Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open


Article: Trump makes presidential history at Women's Open

Article: Trump supporters, protesters clash near Women's Open

Article: UltraViolet takes protest inside Trump National


Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open


Trump golf properties

Vandalism

Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

Article: Man accused of vandalizing four Trump courses

Finances


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

Article: Eric Trump denies Russia helped fund golf courses

Article: Trump company ordered to pay $5.77M in dues dispute

Reportedly fake TIME covers


Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover


Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

Report: Trump's voter fraud claim tied to Langer

Langer: Trump 'apologized' for story mix-up


Pros comment on the president

Article: Players defend Trump at Senior PGA Championship

Article: Trump congratulates Daly; Daly congratulates Trump

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm