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Posted: 19th December 2016

LOUIS Oosthuizen places his Titleist 57 ball in a difficult lie on the magnificent 18th hole at Pinnacle Point and takes a few practice swings, while letting us know what shot he's going to play. One is for the everyday golfer a handicap of around 16 is the global average for us Joe Ordinarys and the other is the way a Tour professional, like himself, would play to a green some 160 metres away Oosthuizen is the Playing Editor for South Africa's largest circulating golf magazine, Compleat Golfer, and on this morning he is engaging with the editor, because occasions like these are few and far between, given his infrequent visits to South Africa.


Later, he has corporate and sponsor's meetings and then, in the blazing sunshine, he will tee off just after noon in his annual Louis57 Drive For Charity golf day culminating in a dinner and auction. The number 57 on the ball is a reminder of the time Oosthuizen shot a 57 at Mossel Bay Golf Club, which is a few kilometres away from Pinnacle Point, and was how the Louis57 brand launched, which has inspired ranges from clothing to wines, restaurants, major golf shops and travel, amongst other things.

I once asked him what he would do if he ever got into the situation of having a short putt to make a 56. "I'd definitely miss the putt," he laughed, "because I'd have to change the whole 57 brand." In fact though, Oosthuizen reckons that the 59 he shot also at Mossel Bay Golf Club one Wednesday afternoon was an even better achievement. "I arrived on the 18th tee on 57. Some people came out onto the clubhouse balcony as they heard I had a chance to shoot 60, if I made a birdie three at the last hole. "I hit my driver to the front of the green, near the leftfront bunker and had a long twoputt to make birdie. I sunk the putt for an eagle two and signed for a 59 instead!" Toughest At Pinnacle Point, Oosthuizen addresses his ball in what he jokingly refers to as "the toughest lie I've had on this course. "The amateur mustn't go for glory and try get too much distance on this shot. Come out virtually sideways, make sure you get the ball back on the fairway, take your medicine and hope you can still make par. "But the professional will have a go. "I might not get to the green but I need to try get the ball as close to be able to up and down from there." Then he hits the "amateur" option and leaves the ball in the middle of the fairway, opening up the majestic 18th green with the ocean in the background, and then the "pro" option, with a draw on the ball as it uses the contours of the course to run down towards the green.

Oosthuizen is back in the country to have a family holiday before returning to the United States, where he lives with his wife and children, to take on a 2017 that he hopes will see him rise again in the world rankings. During the time spent with him, we are reminded what a great ambassador he is for South Africa. No camera "selfie" request or autograph is too much, and even though he is on a tight schedule, he is the consummate professional. He is a staunch Stormers and Springbok supporter, but concedes that things aren't looking too rosy for his rugby sides right now, but that the A reminder how good King Louis is, and that's on and off the course ... good times will.come again.

Getting up close and personal with a worldclass sportsman is another reminder how good they are. They work incredibly hard to get where they are, and even harder to stay there. This is true through the whole range of sportsmen and women. The armchair critic is quick to have a shout at the TV and post on social media that the player isn't worthy of their support, when things are going horribly wrong. They tend to take it personally when the sportsman goes through a bad patch, as if it was a deliberate loss of form. But, we should be reminded of the joy that these sports heroes give us. And golf has blessed South Africa with achievers over the years. It has been the case for generations now, and while Gary Player is still going strong at 81, and Ernie Els is now becoming more stately in his own manner at the age of 47, it's the likes of Oosthuizen (34) and even Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and the young Brandon Stone to remind us how rich in talent South African golf is. They are all regular, good guys, who happen to live their professional lives in front of the lens and able to hit a golf ball in a manner that mere mortals like us can only fantasise about.

by Gary Lemke