Ernie Els showed that he still has some game left as he approaches his 50th birthday, roaring up into a tie for second late on the third day of the South African Open at Randpark Golf Club on Saturday.
But the former world number one said what he will remember most about his excellent round of three-under-par 68 is playing for the first time in a professional tournament in the same group as his nephew, amateur star Jovan Rebula.
While the special family moment made the day memorable enough for Els, who has claimed four Major titles and five SA Open crowns, it could have been even better as the 49-year-old bogeyed the last two holes to drop to eight-under-par overall and into the tie for fifth with Branden Grace and Jbe’ Kruger amongst others.
The Big Easy is six strokes behind leader Louis Oosthuizen.
Rebula shot a 70 on Saturday and is on six-under-par overall, in a tie for 22nd and leading the race for the Freddie Tait Cup for leading amateur, three shots ahead of Deon Germishuys.
“It was absolutely special, we took pictures on the first tee just for the family records and I’ll definitely reflect on this very special day as time goes on. I’ve known Jovan since before he was even in nappies just about, and I was hoping he would be a good golfer. He showed signs and then you hope that he’ll be really good so his dreams can come true and I’m happy that he’s good enough to become a great pro.
“We definitely spurred each other on, we birdied a lot of holes and dovetailed really well, we would have made a great best-ball pairing, we probably would have shot 62. And it was great to see my sister out there and my brother-in-law caddying for Jovan, as parents they must be very proud, as an uncle I’m very proud of him,” Els said after the pair completed their rounds with a combined tally of 12 birdies.
Rebula, the reigning British Amateur champion, said playing in the same three-ball as his uncle was an added bonus as he shines in the biggest tournament of his 21-year-old life thus far.
“It was a goal of mine just to make the cut and now I’m playing for the real deal in the Freddie Tait Cup and I’m well aware my uncle won that in 1989. He’s one of my role-models and such a special person off the course, so caring for other people and that’s what I really look up to. I’m going to have to work hard to do like he’s done on the course.
“I was pleased with my round today but it felt like one of my quickest rounds ever, I just wish it could have carried on all day. It’s always been my dream to play with my uncle, especially at an SA Open which he has won so many times. The back nine was a bit of a rollercoaster but I kept my composure,” Rebula said.
“I hope he breaks all the records I have, I only have love for Jovan,” Uncle Ernie added.