British Amateur champ at career crossroads (even if he's Ernie Els' nephew)

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British Amateur champ at career crossroads (even if he's Ernie Els' nephew)

Euro Tour

British Amateur champ at career crossroads (even if he's Ernie Els' nephew)

ABERDEEN, Scotland – How will winning the British Amateur Championship impact Jovan Rebula’s career? Will he go on to fame, or slide into oblivion like so many champions?

Rebula, 20, has uncle Ernie Els to guide him through the narrow straits of professional golf. That could be a blessing or an albatross around his neck,  considering he’s going to be constantly compared to the four-time major winner.

The Auburn player became only the second South African winner of the British Amateur since Bobby Cole in 1966. He defeated Ireland’s Robin Dawson, 3 and 2, at Royal Aberdeen. Rebula impressed with the way he handled himself around the tough Royal Aberdeen layout, which should bode well for his future.

However, British Amateur champions aren’t guaranteed professional success, as past history shows. Of the champions in the 30 years from 1987, only eight have gone on to win on either the European or PGA Tours. That number compares to 14 for U.S. Amateur winners. Sergio Garcia (1998) is the only British Amateur champion in that period to go on to major success. Three U.S. Amateur champions in that time have progressed to major champions – Phil Mickelson (1990), Justin Leonard (1992) and Tiger Woods (1995-1997).

Many British Amateur winners make little impact on the professional game. The likes of Paul Mayo (1987), Christian Hardin (1988), Stephen Dundas (1992), Gordon Sherry (1995), Alejandro Larrazabal (2002) and Brian McElhinney (2005) never really gained much traction on the European Tour.

Sherry is the prime example of a champion failing to match expectations. He turned professional to great fanfare in 1996, and was widely tipped as Scotland’s next superstar. Yet Sherry never earned his European Tour card. He made just 25 European Tour starts. By 2004, he’d given up his dream of becoming a major winner.

There are success stories besides Garcia. Mikko Ilonen and Michael Hoey, 2000 and 2001 champions, are five-time European Tour winners. Matteo Manassero, 2009 champion, has won four European Tour events.

Most who witnessed Rebula’s Amateur victory would say he has a big future ahead of him. However, the same was said about Sherry.

It’s going to be interesting to watch Rebula’s progress. Let’s hope he goes on to be more like Garcia than Sherry.

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