Ernie’s Latest News – 6 March

06 Mar

It is with real sadness that I must start this week’s report on the news of the passing of a South African golfing legend, Simon Hobday.

He was a good friend and he will be hugely missed. Anyone who knew Simon or spent time in his company will know what a great guy he was, probably one of the funniest men I ever met, and of course he was a very fine player, too. What a life he lived! Our thoughts and condolences go to his family at this difficult time.

I was watching a bit of the golf over the weekend and want to send big congrats to Dustin Johnson, winning his fourth WGC title over in Mexico, and to Dean Burmester who won the Tshwane Open in South Africa, his first victory on the European Tour. That’s a special moment for any young player. Also, on a different sport, it was great to see my beloved Golden Lions register an impressive win in their first home game of the Super Rugby season against NSW Waratahs. Great playing guys.

Talking of winners, I must mention a couple of fine junior golfers – Christo Lamprecht and Caylum Boon – from our first signature golf course in South Africa, the beautiful Oubaai. The pair recently made it to the final of the Sanlam SA Amateur Championship. Many congrats to both of them, especially Christo who at 15 years of age became the youngest ever winner of that historic Championship. Well done Christo.

For me…well, as much as I enjoy my time off at home, hanging out with the family and working on my game, the competitor in me is always excited about getting back out on Tour again. This week we pick up the second leg of the Florida Swing in the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor. It’s another popular stop with a lot of the players on the PGA TOUR. Me included.

In fact, I’ve played this tournament many times and I’ve had a couple of top-10s, most recently in 2012 when this was the Transitions Championship and I was just one shot out of a playoff. Admittedly, in the last few years my results in this tournament have not been what I’d expect. But that doesn’t alter the fact that I enjoy this golf course, provided we get through the final three holes unscathed. They call that stretch the ‘Snake Pit’…enough said! Seriously, though, this isn’t your typical Florida layout and I really like the way it sets-up. I hear it’s in fantastic shape, too. Let’s see how we go this week.

It’s actually the start of an exciting fortnight of golf, with this week’s Valspar Championship and the following week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational bookending our ninth Annual Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado Els for Autism Pro Am on March 13th. You may recall, at that event last year Rickie Fowler made a hole-in-one to win a $1 million donation to Els for Autism. That was an incredible moment (pictured below) and it still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. It’s always a very special day and we have a lot of my fellow Tour pros supporting us again. More on that in next week’s report.

DORAL, FL - MARCH 06:  Rickie Fowler of the United States is embraced by Ernie Els after he had just holed in one in the $1 million Hole-In-One Challenge sponsored by SAP and Ketel One Vodka for the Els for Autism Foundation's Center of Excellence in Jupiter, Florida during the Els for Autism Pro-am at the Old Palm Golf Club on March 7, 2016 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

For now, I just want to send my best wishes to everyone taking part in this week’s Drive to SA Open tournament at Pretoria CC, the first event on the 2017 calendar. We appreciate the support of everyone who’s signed up to play one of the many events taking place between now and the Grand Finale at Highland Gate. All funds raised throughout this series go towards helping individuals with autism to live positive, productive and rewarding lives. And remember, as well as the fundraising there’s a spot in the Pro Am at next year’s SA Open up for grabs. Click here for more details.

Okay, that’s it for now. Follow me on Twitter @TheBig_Easy.

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