Louis Oosthuizen reckons his 2002 Irish Amateur Open victory on Royal Dublin’s hallowed links was a major stepping stone to Open glory.
The South African is the fourth man to complete the Irish Amateur Open – British Open double, following in the giant footsteps of Harold Hilton, John Ball and Dubliner Padraig Harrington.
The man from Mossel Bay won the Irish title by a shot from England’s Paul Bradshaw at Royal Dublin as a raw 19-year old, displaying the same carefree attitude that helped him cruise to his first major victory on Sunday.
Recalling his first taste of links glory, Oosthuizen said: “The Irish Amateur Open was my first international win and it definitely put me on the road to where I am today. I remember it well.”
How could he forget the closing hole with its terrifying carry over the out of bounds “Garden”, made famous by one of Royal Dublin’s favourites, Christy O’Connor Snr.
“A friend of mine caddied for me, Albert Kruger, and we got to the 18th, a 90 degree dogleg right, wind in off the left, blowing pretty hard, and the tee shot I hit there, he just looked at me and said he’s never seen anyone hit a driver that hard and that straight.
“So that was pretty special. You know, I three-putted the last hole but then Paul Bradshaw, the English player, also three-putted the last for me to win by one.
“It was a big win for me and it definitely gave me the confidence to go on and turn professional.”
Athlone’s Colm Moriarty, who tied for 37th at St Andrews having played in the same group as the South African for the first two days, finished sixth behind Oosthuizen at Royal Dublin that week.
But in one of the great ironies of golf, Moriarty’s caddie at St Andrews last week, Birr’s Justin Kehoe, was third behind the new Open champion at the Dollymount Links eight years ago.
A former Irish International and World Universities champion, Kehoe took the plunge into the professional ranks a few years ago but failed to find success his talent deserved. Perhaps his two-day journey around the Old Course in the company of his great friend Moriarty and the then Open champion in waiting was meant to be his golfing moment to remember.