JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA | Louis Oosthuizen’s couch in his American home is set to become a very busy place over the next few months, and he only has himself to blame. Oosthuizen may only be 30, but at fifth on the world ranking and with a season on the PGA Tour under his belt, he has already become a kind of mentor figure to a number of South African professionals hoping to make their mark on American fairways. So in the lead-up to The Masters, Oosthuizen will be housing Branden Grace and
George Coetzee. Grace and Coetzee are looking forward to their place in the first major of the year. And they have a definite plan leading up to it. It entails sleeping on the couch in Oosthuizen’s home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and over cornlakes in the morning asking, “So, Augusta National Golf Club. Any thoughts on how to play that one?” Grace is already a regular houseguest of Oosthuizen’s. During his breakout season on the European Tour in 2012, where he won four times, Grace shared accommodation with Oosthuizen and his family during the week of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in St Andrews.
He prepared for his ultimate victory in this event by watching YouTube videos of Oosthuizen’s victory in the 2010 Open on the Old Course. And of course, he booked a few practice rounds with his host. “I always tend to favour the right side of a golf course, which you can’t do on the Old Course. Louis showed me the correct lines off the tees, and I had to concentrate really hard to keep on the left side or hit it down the left, even if the wind was off the left. It’s a shot I don’t like at all.” And Oosthuizen taught him another valuable lesson – how to relax. “In St Andrews, it helped that I was staying with Louis and his family. Every night we had dinner together, we went to functions together, and I played with the kids. It just really helped me relax and get ready for it. Waking up in the morning and hearing his little girls laughing, it made me feel like I had no worries in the world.” Now Grace will be doing some more learning from Oosthuizen as he sets his sights on translating 2012 European Tour success into 2013 PGA Tour success. “Now I’m going to feel like a rookie all over again as I tackle America. I’ll be travelling to tournaments with Louis and George. We really get on well with each other. There’s a lot of good vibes between us and we feed off each other’s good golf. “Louis, in particular, can give me a few tips about playing in America. Hopefully I can make enough money to earn a PGA Tour card, which is one of my goals this year,” he says. Coetzee will also be vying for some of Oosthuizen’s time, as well as that of Charl Schwartzel, who at 28 is also hardly the elder statesman of South African golf, but a man who knows a thing or two about success, particularly at Augusta National. “I’m really lucky to call guys like Louis and Charl my friends. They’ve won majors and a lot of tournaments, and it’s great to be able to learn from them,” says Coetzee. South African golf always has been blessed with a generation of players who have been willing to assist the next. Gary Player is still doing so for a number of South African players. Richard Sterne recalls playing a practice round with Player during his first Masters appearance.
“Gary is so loved at Augusta National, so it was great to experience that reaction of the fans as well and get used to that. He also showed me where not to go on that course. It’s very easy to find yourself in places you don’t want to be on that golf course,” he says. “As South Africans we tend to help each other when we’re together at tournaments. We get along well and travel well, and Gary showed us that. He led the way and showed us that to be successful we’ll have to be willing to travel.” Ernie Els and Retief Goosen have also fulilled this role. Even Oosthuizen is looking forward to climbing inside the mind of Els when the Open Championship returns to Muirield this year, and where the big South African won in 2002. “I’ll deinitely be looking for a practice round with him. And Ernie is such a great guy that he always says yes,” says Oosthuizen. But in South African golf at the moment, with four South Africans under the age of 30 currently in the top 50 on the world ranking, there is a far more youthful feel to the country’s golf mentorship programme. So the 24-year-old Grace says he wants to be more consistent this year, like the 26-year-old Coetzee was in 2012. And the 26-year-old Coetzee says he wants to win this year, like the 24-year-old Grace did in 2012. And both want to learn as much as they can from the 30-year-old Oosthuizen and the 28-year-old Schwartzel. And Oosthuizen just wants his couch back.