Chip off the block: Els’ nephew takes on golf tournament

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THE 11-year-old nephew of one of the world’s most famous golfers kicked off his international career today at a Scottish course.

Reece Els, whose uncle is the former world number 1, Ernie, took part in the 2012 US Kids Golf European Championship in East Lothian.

Reece, from Cape Town, South Africa, was one of 550 children taking part in the four-day event, the biggest junior golf event in Europe.

Reece Els is following in the footsteps of his uncle, Ernie

Competitors from 50 countries play at Gullane, Longniddry and Craigielaw courses for a chance to take part on Friday in a youth version of the Ryder Cup, called the Van Horn Cup.

Despite tough competition from around the world, Reece is hopeful he will qualify and have a chance to join the non-European side against the Europeans.

Reece, who has been accompanied in the tournament by his mother Sunette and his caddy, has been playing the sport for three years, though the competition is his first major tournament.

Reece on the putting green with his mother, Sunette

Sunette said: “His father Dirk has been teaching him, though he’s just shown him the basics because they believe they should start with a feel and not too much coaching. Kids just get the feel so much easier than adults.”

As well as having an uncle famed for playing the sport, Reece’s fifteen-year-old cousin Jovan Rebula is a scratch handicap, who has colours for South Africa.

Reece’s brother has turned his attention towards cricket, but his father Dirk is also at the same level, adding to the collection of scratch handicaps in the family.

Despite achieving his performance in the sport without any professional help, Reece is a keen follower of his uncle’s career.

Sunette said: “He’s so fond of Ernie. We watch everything on TV; he’s not in South Africa much so there wouldn’t be much time for hands on coaching but Reece watches him every time he plays and just catches on.”

11-year-old Reece in full swing

Reece has a real passion for the sport, with his mother adding that it’s “eat, sleep, school, golf.” She said: “As soon as he’s back from school he’s on the course, chipping, putting, until dark.”

Reece, who said he is enjoying having the chance to play in the beautiful surroundings of Scotland, has also acknowledged his commitment towards golf, which he says he “loves very, very much.”

He added: “Every day after school I do my homework then I practice for two hours or an hour or a half. Every day I just go putting and hit some balls.”

Nearly a sixth of all competitors come from Reece’s home nation of South Africa, though others have also travelled from as far as Australia, Singapore and Thailand.

Amongst them, is another youth with a famous sporting family – Allan Kournikova, from Florida, the seven-year-old brother of tennis star Anna.

He is currently one of the front contenders in the boys, seven years and under category, and has already been making a name for himself in the junior golfing world.

As well as this, the top five finishers in each age and gender group will be invited to the U.S Kids Golf World Championships taking place in North Carolina in August.

Scottish Sports Minister Shona Robison meets some of the young competitors

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