By MARK HUNTER
Daily News Sports Reporter
Louis Oosthuizen's life no doubt has changed since he won the British Open golf championship on Sunday, but his sister-in-law doesn't expect him to change much.
Susanna Swart, a pharmacist at London Drugs, says that Oosthuizen, who is married to her sister, Nel-Mare, is a “down-to-earth” man who usually vacations in Kamloops each year.
Oosthuizen, a 27-year-old South African, dominated the field at the British Open at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, winning one of the most-prestigious golf tournaments in the world by seven strokes.
“It's unbelievable,” said Swart, who moved to Kamloops from South Africa with her husband, Servaas, a doctor, nearly five years ago. “It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.”
Most golf fans didn't know Oosthuizen before his improbable weekend victory, but he can't go far without being recognized nowadays.
But when he came to Kamloops on vacation the last few years, not many people - if anyone - batted an eye when he golfed at The Dunes, Rivershore and Tobiano. Oosthuizen commonly plays with Servaas and Dr. Sven Kip, both family practitioners, but also has played with his wife and in-laws at Mount Paul.
Some might find it hard to believe that a player ranked in the top 100 in the world - he's now ranked No. 15 after entering the British Open at No. 54 - would play at Mount Paul, a nine-hole executive par-3 that measures 1,986 yards in length, but Susanna said that Oosthuizen is that type of guy.
“He likes playing golf with anybody, anywhere,” she said. “He's real down-to-earth.”
But golf isn't exactly the reason Oosthuizen comes to town. Golf is his job - he comes here to vacation.
“When he comes to visit us, he usually tries to break away from golf,” Swart said. “He likes going to the lake - we usually spend part of a week at the lake (Shuswap or Okanagan) and he doesn't even touch golf clubs.”
Swart, 35, talked to Nel-Mare, 28, after Oosthuizen closed out the victory Sunday, and again Monday. Things were still “pretty crazy” for the couple on Monday, with phone calls and interview requests coming from all over the world.
But the craziness didn't stop when Louis and Nel-Mare returned to their home in Manchester, England, on Monday morning.
“They didn't realize that their address was listed,” Swart said. “When they got home, there were reporters waiting for them. That was kind of strange.
“Wherever they stop now - gas stations, anywhere - everyone wants pictures with him.”
Swart has known Oosthuizen since she was young. When Nel-Mare was in Grade 1, the family moved to Albertinia, South Africa, where Oosthuizen and his family lived. Nel-Mare and Oosthuizen remained friends, even after she moved away.
“We've been family friends all along,” Swart said. “When we moved away, (Nel-Mare and Louis) stayed connected, and he saw her a lot more when she went to university.”
The last time the Swarts and Oosthuizens saw each other was in mid-June at Pebble Beach, where Louis missed the cut in the U.S. Open.
Swart said Louis and Nel-Mare are planning to come to Kamloops some time this summer - in the past, it was before the PGA Championship, which runs in mid-August - but it might be different this year, what with Louis suddenly finding himself being somewhat busier than normal.
But, with Oosthuizen getting exemptions into all four major championships - the PGA, Masters and U.S. Open, along with the British Open - for at least the next five years, the Swarts are planning their vacations. They are looking at attending the Masters in Augusta, Ga., in April, and the U.S. Open at Bethesda, Md., in June.
“It's still sinking in,” Swart said. “We know the Open champion.”