It hasn’t always been well documented that Ernie Els has a nephew who is keen on making it as a professional golfer. This has been the case for a few reasons, but most significantly is probably the fact that the Big Easy’s nephew was hardly setting the golfing world alight. That was until he arrived as a lanky 20-year-old on the northeast coast of Scotland to play in the Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.
It was over this week in late June of 2017 that Els’ nephew Jovan Rebula would make all the headlines as he won the Amateur Championship and, by doing so, was the first South African to do it since Bobby Cole in 1966. Not even uncle Ernie has had the privilege of hoisting the trophy aloft; in fact, Els only made it to the Amateur Championship final back in 1988, but as a caddie for friend Ben Fouchee.
It was a momentous occasion for Rebula, and like Ernie Els said to him before he teed off at Royal Aberdeen, ‘winning this will open many doors for you’ and that has been exactly the case. Rebula’s story took another interesting yet impressive twist at the South African Open during the first weekend of December.
This time Rebula would follow in his uncle’s footsteps by winning the Freddie Tait trophy after finishing as the highest amateur in golf’s third oldest open. Els did it in 1989, and now his 21-year-old nephew has completed the circle by winning it in 2018. What made the weekend under the African sun at Randpark Golf Club even more exciting was the fact that uncle and nephew were paired together during the third round after both going into the weekend tied at five under.
Tricky, windy day for scoring @RandparkGolf today @SAOpen_Golf @Sunshine_Tour @EuropeanTour, but what a special experience playing with my nephew @JovanRebula. We’re all so proud of this fine young man. pic.twitter.com/ishpgJ5IcZ— Ernie Els (@TheBig_Easy) December 8, 2018
On this occasion, the elder statesman Els was able to show the young’un how it was done as he carded a 68, which was two shots better than Rebula’s 1-under 70. In the end, and after the four rounds, Els finished in a tie for 15th and Rebula in a share of 24th position as uncle and nephew capped off a very successful South African Open.
Els has been quite insistent that his nephew finishes off his degree at Auburn University in the States before he turns professional despite all the success the 21-year-old has achieved in the last 12 months. It doesn’t look like Rebula will throw in the towel on his education either and has promised he will finish his studies before turning professional.
After winning the Amateur Championship in Aberdeen, Rebula qualified for a trip to the 2019 Masters, which will be a great incentive for him to keep going at university. The 21-year-old may not be favourite to win it like Tiger Woods is at 10/1 in golf betting, but even if he were to make the cut it would be a fantastic achievement.
Uncle Ernie will be on hand at Augusta to offer him support, but won’t be playing as his five-year exemption into all the majors is up after he won the Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes back in 2012.
There are so many similarities between Els and Rebula, but none are more intriguing than their lethargic golf swings that are just so easy on the eye. Watching them in tandem at the South African Open was a thing of beauty, and many would have been taken back to a time when a young Ernie Els was beginning to make waves in the golfing world. It’s now over to Jovan to see if he can keep the success in the family.