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Open champion Louis Oosthuizen recalls Dublin inspiration

By Karl MacGinty

Newly-crowned 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 wee 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 wind was in off the left, blowing pretty hard, and 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,” Ooshuizen explained.

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 Keogh, his regular caddie on the European Challenge Tour 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 in their career.

Harrington followed-up on his Irish Amateur win in 1995 by lifting the Claret Jug in 2007 and 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 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.

Meanwhile Paul McGinley will be unveiled as one of Colin Montgomerie's Ryder Cup vice-captains during a media briefing at the European Tour headquarters in Wentworth, Surrey, this morning.

McGinley, likely to be joined by Dane Thomas Bjorn on Monty's backroom team at Celtic Manor in the autumn, is seen as a contender for future European Ryder Cup captaincy in the future.

Yet the Dubliner's opportunity might arise far earlier than expected following media speculation that 46-year-old Montgomerie might consider stepping aside as he deals with issues in his private life.

Noting repeated references by the BBC commentary team at St Andrews to Monty's demeanour at the Open, one of British golf's most influential writers weighed in on this issue in an English daily newspaper yesterday.

He wrote: “On TV they referred so often last week to Monty's off-course distractions and ‘a man with something clearly on his mind' that you'd have thought walking the plank and giving up the Ryder Cup captaincy might have crossed his mind.”

Wow, that's pretty heavy stuff with Celtic Manor less than three months away. Should Montgomerie stun golf and decide to “walk the plank” before Celtic Manor, as the writer colourfully suggests, the European Tour would have an obvious replacement in McGinley.

Though his determination to try and play at the last Ryder Cup in 2008 persuaded him to step down from Nick Faldo's backroom team at Valhalla, McGinley underlined his talent for team captaincy at last September's Vivendi Trophy in Paris.

The Dubliner was roundly praised by his players for the innovative and motivational role he played as he led a team of underdogs representing Great Britain and Ireland to victory over Bjorn's European side.

Belfast Telegraph


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