Johann Rupert sat back to reflect on the first time he met a spiky-haired youngster with an amazing golf swing.
"The first time I met Ernie Els, he looked like a one iron with ears," said Rupert.
From his days as a talented youngster at Kempton Park Golf Club, Ernie Els has gone on to become one of the giants of the game with a global presence, over 60 international victories and four Majors to his name.
And he returns to Sun City as the most successful golfer in the history of the Nedbank Golf Challenge, having earned the most prize money and now making a record 18th appearance in the event at the Gary Player Country Club.
His most recent Major was arguably his most emotional. With his victory in the 2012 Open Championship, Els banished more than a few internal demons and questions regarding his ability to win again at the highest level of the game.
Els's victory at Royal Lytham & St Annes, Els did indeed represent an astonishing transformation in not only his game, but his life as well.
Els had struggled to regain his form and had to dig deep into his character to get back to the pinnacle of the game.
One of the low points came on a Friday in December 2006, during the second round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship. Els was walking down the 13th fairway at Leopard Creek and at three-over-par for the tournament, with the cut at two over. He was in danger of missing his first cut on the European Tour since 1999. He birdied the 15th and then eagled the last to make it into the weekend. He was back to level par for the tournament. Or as he said, "Back to square one". It was an apt description of where he stood in his career at the time. He'd spent 2005 recovering from a knee injury and subsequent surgery.
In 2006 he won the South African Open. It was a critical victory in terms of Els's confidence.
"The South African Open launched my career when I won it for the first time in 1992. That win gave me a lot of spots into some European Tour events, one of them being the British Open where I finished fifth. That in turn got me into the US Open the next year, and my performance there got me into the US Open in 1994, which I won. So without my 1992 SA Open win I wouldn't have made it into those tournaments and maybe not have had the career I have had. So I regard the SA Open very highly. I owe this tournament a lot of gratitude", he said.
Els's 1992 South African Open triumph was indeed a watershed moment for him. His victory over Derek James at Houghton Golf Club that year saw the then 22-year-old achieve the triple crown of winning the South African Open, South African PGA and South African Masters in the same year.
His international breakthrough came a year later when he won the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan. Then in 1994, Els announced himself to the world with victory in his first Major - the 1994 US Open.
Fuelled by his victory in the 2006 South African Open, Els went public with his three-year plan to catch Tiger Woods and become number one in the world again.
But after several near misses in the Majors, Els was still unable to add to his three Major titles. It was beginning to confound his greatest supporters, such as Gary Player.
"I've always felt that Ernie has unbelievable talent. I have so much confidence in his ability, and he definitely has exceptional ability. I've always felt he was going to win the Masters and I'm surprised he hasn't. Obviously, with his great length, that's a great asset at the Masters. Yes, he's not performing to the ability that he has, but I can't help but feel that he will do it," Player said.
But in the year of one of his greatest disappointments Els also celebrated one of his greatest triumphs.
In April 2012, Els failed to qualify for the Masters, having dropped out of the top 50 in the world.
But he had already started to work with Dr Sherylle Calder, the eye specialist who worked with the Springboks, All Blacks and England rugby teams. And it paid off when he won his fourth Major in the Open Championship that year.
Els has impacted so much on South Africa's sporting culture that he has an association with many of the country's sports stars.
"We used to play junior golf together," recalls PGA professional Kevin Stone. "I first met him in 1983 in Welkom, and he was this skinny blonde-haired kid. But we'd already heard all about him. He was going to be the next superstar. He was still a whippersnapper then - I think he was about 13. But even then you could see his potential. And through the ranks we used to play under-18s and under-23s and Ernie was always an exceptionally gifted golfer. And he practises very hard. Everybody says he's the Big Easy and he doesn't work hard enough. But if you have a look at his hands, he's got some serious work in them."
And though Els is often chided for his undying support of the Lions rugby team, a number of rugby legends remain in awe of the golfer.
"I think Ernie has been a great ambassador for South Africa," says former Springbok Breyton Paulse.
"Ten or 15 years back I wouldn't even have watched golf. Now we have so many good youngsters coming through the ranks."
And Ray Mordt says Els' humility has always impressed him.
"As rugby players, we are nothing compared with the kind of global icon he is. I've met Ernie a few times and he's an incredible person. He's definitely an icon to us. But what I admire most is that he's world renowned, but still so humble. To me, that's very important."
Springbok winger Bryan Habana also recalls the first time he met Els.
"Ernie has been an amazing supporter of the Springboks and he loves his rugby. Ernie actually handed over my first Springbok jersey in 2004 when I made my debut at Twickenham."
Now Els returns to a gallery that appreciates him most as he tees it up in the Nedbank Golf Challenge as one of the legends of this iconic golf tournament.