ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — The South Africans have a new soundtrack of success. The drone of the vuvuzela has been succeeded by the skirl of the bagpipe.
One week after beaming in pride at its historic hosting of soccer’s World Cup, the nation torn apart by apartheid just a generation ago had another reason to stick out its chest: Louis Oosthuizen won the British Open in a dominating romp. On Nelson Mandela’s 92nd birthday, no less.
A white Afrikaner with a black caddie on his bag crossed over the Swilcan Bridge, tapped in the last putt and lifted the claret jug.
Oosthuizen (WUHST’-hy-zen) just wanted to celebrate the moment with family and friends. Others realized there was something more significant going on at the Old Course, another instance of sports transcending a societal divide.
“It’s fantastic,” said Gary Player, the most prominent golfer to come out of South Africa. “Wonderful things are happening to South Africa. I went back for the final match of the World Cup, and they did a way better job than people imagined.”
Of course, soccer’s biggest event won’t solve the everyday problems and racial tensions that still linger in South Africa. Nor will one man winning a golf tournament.
But there’s no denying the pride felt by those who cheered on Oosthuizen while waving the post-apartheid colors of their nation — red, blue, green, yellow and black — or wearing jackets and shirts bearing the words “Bafana Bafana,” the nickname of South Africa’s soccer team.
“It is a great event for all South Africans, especially because it is the birthday of Nelson Mandela,” said caddie Zack Rasego, who usually converses with Oosthuizen in Afrikaans, the language despised by blacks during apartheid as a symbol of the ruling white minority. “It’s a great day for us.”
It was a great week for Oosthuizen, who started the week as such an unknown that the R&A felt compelled to put out a fact sheet with 11 things one needed to know about the 27-year-old from Mossel Bay.