Ernie’s latest news – 17 January

17 Jan

First of all, huge congrats to Graeme Storm on winning the BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni.

Only a few weeks ago, Graeme thought he’d lost his European Tour card. Now here he is, proud champion of the second oldest national open in professional golf. Don’t you just love this game! From the depths of despair to the top of the mountain in little over a month. What a story for him.

It was an amazing week not just for Graeme, but for everyone involved in the South African Open. In my role as the tournament host, there are so many people that I’d like to thank. First of all, big respect and thanks to Rory McIlroy for honouring his promise to play here. Rory is a great guy, obviously a great player, and him being at Glendower was a big factor in this year’s tournament attracting such large crowds. Rory will be disappointed to have come close and not win, but I know he had a wonderful week in South Africa and to me his game looks in superb shape for the season ahead.

SA Open Rory

In terms of my own game I played a lot of good stuff out there and made a lot of birdies, which was nice. Unfortunately a few bogeys at the wrong time cost me and coming up 18 on Friday I was stymied with a tree in my line, so was only able to make a five. At the time I thought that may still be good enough, but sadly the cut-line moved. I’m certainly feeling very motivated, though, as I look forward to teeing it up in Singapore this week and then in Qatar the following week.

The atmosphere and the buzz all week, and especially at the weekend, was the best I think I’ve ever experienced at the SA Open. Sincere thanks to everyone who supported the event, because it made it very special for all of us players and also helped create a wonderful spectacle for the television audiences. All in all, it was a great showcase for the tournament and for South African golf.

Big thanks to the greens staff at Glendower, who got this beautiful golf course in great shape despite some recent heavy rainfall, and to all the volunteers – the unsung heroes of any golf tournament. Also, I must briefly mention the Big Easy Winebar & Grill pop-up kitchen (pictured below) that we had located beside the 15th hole at Glendower. It was a new idea for us and one that proved to be very popular. We’ll definitely look to repeat that again…and next year it will be even bigger and better!

Big Easy 15th green SA Open

Thanks obviously to everyone at the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour and all the sponsors, especially The City of Ekurhuleni and BMW (who also generously donated a cheque for R100,000 to Els for Autism SA at the start of the week). In addition, my ball-marker last week was a R50,000 casino chip from Emperors Palace in Johannesburg and they have kindly offered to donate that sum to autism. We also raised R245,000 in the SA Open Pro Am dinner auction. All funds raised have a direct and positive impact on the lives of individuals on the spectrum and, of course, their families.

Anyway, just re-winding again for a second, the commitment and professionalism of BMW and what it contributes to professional golf all around the world is deeply impressive. They are doing a standout job in helping us grow the SA Open. Naturally, I share their passion. All through my career I’ve felt it was one of the top events on my calendar and I love being involved with the event and helping in the decision-making. We’ve got this nice date in the schedule now and it’s clear to see how the tournament can continue to go from strength to strength. Trust me, we’re going to pull out all the stops to attract a strong field in 2018 and make it another week to remember.

Before we move on, one other exciting piece of news for us last week was the signing (pictured below) of a new Ernie Els Design project located on the northeast of Zanzibar Archipelago, a small cluster of islands that many people will know are renowned for their outstanding natural beauty. As a course designer, I feel so fortunate to be working with Zanzibar Amber Resorts on this project. To be awarded with some of the most beautiful settings in the Indian Ocean is a wonderful opportunity for us. Click here for the full story and images.

Zanzibar launch1

At this time of the year it’s always with a heavy heart that I leave my beloved South Africa, but we do at least have a really nice week to look forward to. We’re in Singapore for this week’s SMBC Singapore Open at the beautiful Sentosa Golf Club. As an Asian Tour International Ambassador and an Honorary Member, it was good to see this tournament get back on the schedule. There is a strong fan base of golf support here and they always come out in good numbers and show the players plenty of love.

I’m also a big fan of Singapore. To me, it is one of the best cities in Asia; the people are extremely friendly and I just love the whole buzz about this place. And I’ve always been a fan of this golf course, which is one of the best in the entire continent. They’ve revamped the layout a bit over the years, but that’s only improved it, and the good thing is it hasn’t changed so much that I don’t feel comfortable as soon as I tee it up here.

Let’s see how we go. I’ve played in this tournament a handful of times, though not since 2011, and I’ve had a couple of near-misses, finishing second in 2006 and 2008. It’s great to be back and to have another shot at the title. They’ve got a nice field assembled, with obviously a lot of talented Asian Tour players. My old buddy Adam Scott, a three-time winner of this event, is here too. So is Sergio Garcia. As I said, it’s shaping up to be a very enjoyable week and hats off to the Asian Tour for putting on such a good show for us.

Finally, congratulations to Justin Thomas on winning back-to-back on the PGA TOUR. That is certainly a great feeling to start the year off like that.

Follow me on Twitter @TheBig_Easy.

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