Ernie Els’ special welcome for young South African golfers
The golfing dream of a lifetime came true for two young South African golfers as they enjoyed an unforgettable trip to play some of Scotland’s iconic courses, culminating in a visit to the 151st Open Championship where they met many of their golfing idols, including Ernie Els.
Timothy Daniels and Craig Jacobs, both 19, have benefitted from the work of the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) which uses golf to help change the lives of underprivileged young people.
The two talented golfers, who play off plus-two handicaps, were given the opportunity to play at Muirfield and the Castle Course at St Andrews. They also visited the three great courses that host the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – the Old Course St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
At the end of their memorable visit, they watched the Scottish Open and attended two practice days at The Open at Royal Liverpool. It was there that Daniels met Ernie Els during his practice round. Ernie lifted the ropes and invited him to walk the last few fairways with him on the biggest stage in golf and in front of hundreds of fans.
“I walked with Ernie and asked him to sign my flag. We spoke about the fact that I’m also part of his Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation and he asked about my golf and how it was going,” said Daniels.
Visiting the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship’s host courses was another highlight for the pair. The charitable Alfred Dunhill Links Foundation has been a supporter of the South African Golf Development Board for many years.
“When we arrived in St Andrews I couldn’t believe we were actually there. I’ve watched the golf course on TV and then to now stand there was so special,” said Daniels.
“It was unreal being at the courses where they play the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship,” added Jacobs. “Just being there and seeing those courses gives me a whole new picture of the tournament.”
Daniels was also able to test himself against international competition for the first time. “I played my first tournament out of South Africa while we were in Scotland. It was a field of 72 players and then a cut after 36 holes and I made the cut and played another 36 holes. It was good to compare my game to a bunch of international players and fun interacting with them.”
Jacobs listed watching Rory McIlroy win the Scottish Open as his personal highlight.
“The whole trip was amazing, from playing different types of golf course and experiencing a new culture and seeing what Scotland and England is actually about. I’m grateful for it.
“Going to the Old Course was incredible. It felt unreal and you can actually imagine all the history right in front of you, under your feet. And then I watched Rory McIlroy at the Scottish Open. The way he plays and the way he keeps himself on the golf course is so impressive. Everything about this trip just feels unreal.”
The trip has fuelled the golf passions of both young players and they have an even clearer idea of their pathways in the game.
“It’s given me experiences I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere else and that can only lead to improvement in my game and career. I’m still 100% sure that one of my dreams is to become a professional golfer,” said Daniels, who is also studying for a business qualification.
“I’ve been playing since I was four years old,” said Jacobs. “The game is the one thing I can do that takes my mind away from everything going on around me and it brings me peace. I’d love to turn professional one day, and if not I’d still like to work in the golf industry somehow.
“I think what I learnt most on this trip is how so many people in the world love this game so much. Even the professionals. That makes me want to be less hard on myself and just keep enjoying the game,” he added.