Jovan Rebula, the nephew of two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, captured Saturday’s championship match of the 123rd Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in Scotland, defeating Robin Dawson, 3 and 2. With the victory, Rebula earned a spot in the 119th U.S. Open Championship next June, as well as this year’s 118th U.S. Amateur Championship, both at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links.
The 20-year-old became just the second South African – after Bobby Cole in 1966 – to win the world’s oldest amateur championship with his triumph over Dawson, of the Republic of Ireland, in the 36-hole championship match. Rebula, a rising senior at Auburn University who entered the week No. 192 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, is exempt into next year’s U.S. Open provided he remains an amateur.
“It’s unreal,” said Rebula. “It’s really something that is hard to describe. I am thankful to be standing here right now.”
Els, who won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997, texted his nephew daily to provide encouragement. Rebula’s mother, Carina, is Ernie’s sister. Els and Rebula will both compete in next month’s Open Championship at Carnoustie, as Rebula also earned a spot into that major, as well as a likely invitation to next April’s Masters Tournament. Els is exempt as a two-time winner of The Open, in 2002 and 2012.
Els received a special exemption from the USGA into last week’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, where he missed the cut. Thirty years ago, Els caddied for fellow South African Ben Fouchee in the final of The Amateur Championship, as Fouchee lost at Royal Porthcawl in Wales to Christian Hardin, of Sweden.
“We have a very tight relationship,” Rebula told Golfweek. “He’s always motivating me. He’s been awesome.”
Rebula is the first amateur to become exempt for next year’s U.S. Open. Next month’s U.S. Junior Amateur champion will join him, along with the 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, the champion and runner-up of the 2018 U.S. Amateur and the winner of the McCormack Medal winner, the golfer who holds the No. 1 spot in the WAGR after this year’s U.S. Amateur.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.