They were both there in 2003 when the International team and the United States shared the Presidents Cup at Fancourt, and Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace will draw on the thrills they both recall when they play this year.
“The first time I watched it was live in 2003 at Fancourt, close to where I grew up,” said Oosthuizen ahead of this year’s event which gets underway on Thursday at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
I went out there and watched it, and it was one of my dreams to play on the International team,” he said. “And this is a dream come true for me.”
Said Grace: “My first tournament experience that I ever watched was pretty much this at Fancourt, which was the ultimate thing for me. That is when I knew I wanted to play golf. That is when I knew this is what I want to do for a living.”
The pair are rookies on an International team captained by Nick Price that looks pretty much out-gunned by a stellar United States team which is on home turf and on a run of recent one-sided victories over their opponents.
With five South Africans and a Zimbabwean on the 12-man team captained by a Zimbabwean, with Zimbabwean captain’s assistants in Tony Johnstone and Mark McNulty – and Sunshine Tour chairman of the board Johann Rupert with them behind the scenes – there will a sense of unity of purpose like seldom before on the International team.
Three Australians, an Argentinian, a Canadian and a player from Japan make up the rest of the squad, and they will all be swept up by the Southern African enthusiasm.
Oosthuizen pointed out how coming from the same country was helping. “It’s great. Branden and I are both from the Southern Cape in South Africa and grew up in small places, and to play together on a team like this is brilliant for where we grew up in Southern Cape,” he said.
They both came out of the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation, too, tightening the bond they feel. Grace put his finger on what the Els contribution means: “It means a lot for him, seeing us here competing with him on the same team. You know, he does great stuff for South African golf. And through his Foundation, he gave kids the opportunity, gave them a light to show them what golf is all about.”
And because it was the Presidents Cup which inspired them, it would be crazy to write the Internationals off just yet.