Jovan, ‘Oom’ Ernie tee up

Ernie Els has a reputation for producing outstanding links golf
Ernie Els has a reputation for producing outstanding links golf
Image: Luke Walker/Gallo Images

Ernie Els is used to being called “oom”‚ a generic respectful Afrikaans greeting by younger people to those of an older generation.

But when Els hears himself being called “oom” at this week’s 147th Open Championship it is because his nephew‚ Jovan Rebula, is a rival challenger at Carnoustie.

The 20-year-old Rebula‚ the son of Els’s sister Carina‚ finds himself in the field for the season’s third major by virtue of winning the British Amateur title at Royal Aberdeen last month.

Rebula has long being a talented junior in SA‚ but going into the British Amateur his ranking was 192 in the unpaid ranks.

Like his uncle‚ he showed a taste of links golf by beating Irish champion Robin Dawson 3&2 in the matchplay event to become the first South African to win the prestigious amateur title since Bobby Cole in 1966.

“I have a tight relationship with my uncle Ernie and he is always motivating me,” Rebula said.

“He said this [winning the British Amateur] would open doors for me and told me to go out there‚ to have fun and grab the opportunity with both hands. He’s awesome. Just a great human being.”

One of the prizes for winning was automatic qualification for the Open‚ a well as the 2019 Masters and US Open.

Els‚ 48‚ is playing in his 28th Open Championship and his third at Carnoustie.

Rebula will be soaking up lessons‚ especially as he is staying in the same house as his experienced uncle.

“The Open is always a special week‚ but even more so this year with my nephew Jovan Rebula in the field having won the Amateur Championship last month‚” Els said.

“The whole family is obviously so proud of him and we’re all staying in a house together this week in St Andrews‚ which is good fun!”

Els‚ winner of the Open in 2002 and 2012‚ and runner-up on three other occasions‚ is in the twilight of an illustrious career‚ but a man capable of producing outstanding links golf.

Links play demands experience and patience and although Els is far from a favourite, he cannot be discounted.

“Carnoustie has a well-deserved reputation as probably the toughest of all the courses on the Open rotation‚” Els said.

“I also think it’s one of the fairest‚ though. There’s only one blind tee shot and everything is pretty much right in front of you.

“Those of us who regularly play in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship are more familiar with this course in the fairly cold‚ damp conditions of an English autumn and the course is typically very green.

“Well‚ we don’t have that this week. Carnoustie right now tells the story of the prolonged hot‚ dry weather that the UK has had this summer. It’s playing hard and very fast‚ like a true links test.

“The rough is a little bit more wispy than usual‚ after all the dry weather‚ so I think there’s the opportunity to be quite aggressive off the tee on certain holes.

“You have to be a bit cagey‚ though‚ with the fairways running so hard and fast. Let’s see how things shape up in the practice rounds.”- TimesLIVE