Ernie Els’ garden is flowering.
Louis Oosthuizen’s British Open victory Sunday marks back-to-back weeks that graduates of Els’ South African junior golf foundation have credited Els with helping them realize dreams they wouldn’t be pursuing without his help.
Kelli Shean, a 22-year-old amateur from Cape Town, made a surprising run to the top of the leaderboard during the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont the week before last. She’s a product of Els’ Fancourt Foundation and his vision for promising young golfers. So is Oosthuizen.
“This is absolutely unbelievable,” Els told South African reporters after Oosthuizen’s victory. “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.”
Shean said she wouldn’t have been able to compete without the assistance of Els’ foundation.
“Ernie taught me all the things I needed to know,” Shean said at Oakmont. 'I just hope that he’ll be happy that everything that he pushed me into actually helped get me here.”
Shean's father, Stephen, said he is impressed how personally involved Els is in the program. In fact, Els sent a message to the Shean family during the U.S. Women's Open explaining how proud he was of Kelli and that he wanted them to know he was watching on TV.
According to the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation, the organization’s mission is: “To identify talented young South Africans predominantly from families of limited resources and provide them with educational and life-skill assistance and playing opportunities in order to produce successful, well-rounded and educated young golfers.'