ABERDEEN, Scotland – Jovan Rebula will always be able to say he has one trophy Ernie Els didn’t get his hands on, even if the 20-year-old South African never reaches his famous uncle’s tally of four major victories.
The Auburn player became the second South African winner of British Amateur Championship with a 3&2 win over Ireland’s Robin Dawson at Royal Aberdeen. Els reached the 1988 final at Royal Porthcawl, but only as Ben Fouchee’s caddie. Els lost in the fourth round that year but hung around to caddie for teammate Fouchee, who lost to Sweden’s Christian Hardin.
“It’s probably something he might be a little bit sour about.” Rebula joked. “I’m very appreciative about what he’s done for me throughout my life. We’ll probably have a little talk about this next time I see him.”
Els has been sending his nephew messages all week. They paid off. Rebula was the last man standing out of the 288 competitors who started the 123rd championship.
“He sent me another message last night that just said, ‘Go out and have some fun and grab the opportunity with both hands. You’ve got this opportunity only once and it will open doors for you,’” said Rebula, who follows Bobby Cole in 1966 as the second South African winner.
One of those doors is a place in next month’s Open Championship at Carnoustie, where Rebula will call on Els’ experience as a two-time winner. The win also includes starts in next year’s Masters and U.S. Open.
“We played a practice round together at the SA Open but to play with him in a practice round in the Open championship, a major, is something out of heaven. This is a magical moment for me.
“I can’t tell you how unreal it feels right now.”
Dawson was bidding to become the first Irish winner since Alan Dunbar in 2012. However, he was never up in the match against the stronger player. In fact, he was five down after 27 holes and trying to play catch up.
Winning the British Amateur Championship can sometimes be a curse. Only eight of 30 winners since 1987 have gone on to win on the European Tour, with many no longer in the game. Expect Rebula to kick on from this win. Uncle Ernie should make sure of that.