The Els for Autism Golf Challenge Grand Finale, hosted by Ernie and Liezl Els on October 27-28, brought 300 guests to Palm Beach County to experience first-hand how their fundraising efforts are creating a brighter future for individuals on the autism spectrum.
The event celebrated the culmination of the seventh annual Golf Challenge, which raised $2,973,507 for the Foundation and featured an awards ceremony, tournament golf and a gala. The unforgettable weekend was made possible by presenting sponsor SAP and organizing sponsors RBC, TaylorMade and Wine Spectator.
The weekend began at The Els Center of Excellence with an awards ceremony in the auditorium. During the ceremony, Ernie and Liezl highlighted the programs and services that funds raised by The Golf Challenge help support, and the positive impact these programs have on individuals on the spectrum. Awards were presented to the top four Golf Challenge fundraising teams, including the top fundraiser, Tanner’s Team Too! who received the coveted Els Cup for raising $50,208 for the Foundation.
“Honestly, it is always a pleasure for me to spend time with everyone who earns their place at the Grand Finale,” commented Ernie. “This was the seventh year of The Golf Challenge and in that time our fundraising total has topped the $18 million mark. It’s truly humbling to have got to this stage and obviously the results of our fundraising efforts are evident every day in the wonderful work being done at The Center.”
A highlight of the ceremony was the announcement of the winner of the 2017 Els for Autism Spectrum Award, Rachel Barcellona (pictured above, second from right), who was in attendance to personally accept the award, which each year honors an individual with autism spectrum disorder who has shined a positive light on autism through his/her character, positive attitude and contribution. Our 2016 winner, Gloria Mendoza (pictured above, centre) presented the award, noting Rachel’s advocacy for people with disabilities. Currently, Rachel is the international spokesperson for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) at the University of South Florida and was recently elected to their executive board of directors. She was also named ambassador for the Unicorn Children’s Foundation and works with this international organization to help people with neurodiversity.
After the awards ceremony, guests toured the campus and spent the remainder of the evening enjoying food and drinks and mingling on the putting and chipping area. On Saturday morning, guests played tournament golf at two local courses, and later enjoyed dinner and dancing at a masquerade-themed gala night at The Breakers. Throughout the weekend guests also had the opportunity to attend autism consultations.
Thanks to the passion, commitment and continued support of our sponsors, the past seven years of The Golf Challenge have been a tremendous success. Stay tuned for information about the 2018 Els For Autism Golf Challenge. Fundraising continues to secure funding for the Sports Facilities, the Medical & Research Services Facility, and the Adult Services Facility.
About The Golf Challenge: Spearheaded by World of Golf Hall of Famer Ernie Els, The Golf Challenge consists of a series of Regional events at top-rated courses across the United States and Canada from May through September. It is one of the largest charity-driven amateur golf tournaments in history. More information at e4agolf.com.