Latest news from The Ernie Els Centre for Autism SA, providing lower resourced families of children on the autism spectrum with free access to effective education for their child via e-learning programs.
1. Drive to SA Open reaches grand final at beautiful Highland Gate
The inaugural ‘Drive to the SA Open’ series began in February and ended last month with a grand final at the Ernie Els-designed Highland Gate Golf Club. The field for the final, sponsored by Investec, was made up of all the winners of the 14 regional events held across South Africa during 2016. Also in attendance were the series’ successful auction bidders and representatives from the events’ many generous sponsors.
All of the many competitors who entered the Drive to the SA Open series had raised funds for The Ernie Els Centre for Autism in South Africa and the finalists at Highland Gate were playing their hearts out to try to win a place in the 2017 SA Open pro am. Congratulations to winners Johan Van Staden and Wally Herbst who scored an impressive 91 points in the betterball stableford format. “I’ll see you guys at Glendower in January,” commented Ernie in his online blog the following week.
Day one had begun with a shot-gun start and par-3 shootout in perfect 30-degree weather, with the golf course looking absolutely pristine. Golfers each donated R100 to qualify for the event and had to hit the green in order to proceed through the competition. Former Tour professional and event host Nico Van Rensburg was persuaded to take part…and he showed that his skills remain undiminished by winning the competition. Nico donated his prize to runner-up Wally Herbst…all in all, it was a very fruitful day for Wally!
Drive to SA Open final leaderboard
1. Johan Van Staden & Wally Herbst – 91 points
2. Andre Le Roux & Riaan Hefer – 86 points
3. Derek Bekker & Chris Crossman – 84 points
4. Peps Pretorius & Mike Clement – 83 points
Our MC then for the evening function was Dan Nichol, joined by Jeff Clause and Nico Van Rensburg, who reminisced with some entertaining and insightful anecdotes about Ernie’s younger days on Tour. Later, the famous South African singer Monique Steyn delighted the audience with her golden voice.
The second day’s events were brought forward in order to get the better of an ominous-looking weather forecast and, despite a short delay due to early morning fog, the plan was entirely successful. All the golfers finished their rounds just before a mighty hail-storm swept across beautiful Highland Gate, a golf course that received a unanimous 10 out of 10 for its superb layout and immaculate conditioning.
Nico Van Rensburg of The Els Group commented, “It was a fantastic couple of days and obviously we are grateful to everyone who took part, and to the team at Highland Gate and of course to all of the companies who generously supported us. Thanks in particular to Sam Hagner of Investec, our main sponsor, and to all the other sponsors including Ernie Els Wines, TaylorMade Golf, Courier It, The Ernie Els Collection, Compleat Golfer magazine, Golf Weather, SAP and Kappa.”
2. Reflecting on a great year at The Ernie Els Centre for Autism
In January of this year, The Ernie Els Centre for Autism underwent one of the biggest changes it has seen yet, establishing a satellite branch in Cape Town enabling us to help more individuals and their families on the spectrum. Previously, it had been necessary to turn away families who desperately needed help that we simply could not provide. It broke our collective hearts to explain to these families that we could not assist, but the nature of our work is such that it requires routine observations to ensure that the skills are being taught correctly. Hence what a significant moment it was to open the new satellite branch in Cape Town.
And it is with a huge sigh of relief that we welcomed Chanel Baumgarten to the Ernie Els Group. Chanel became a part of the team very quickly after we’d recognised that she shared our passion and commitment to our students. Together with Prof. Petrus de Vries, Chanel sees families from offices based at the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Here we are fortunate to provide much needed support to families that we previously could not assist and, of course, we are also able to monitor the activities on a regular basis to ensure a comprehensive and consistent delivery of our services.
We’ve certainly come a long way. Indeed, it is hard to believe that it was only six years ago that the Centre opened and started assisting just a handful of families. Our expansion has been quick and has been met with enthusiasm by the families seeking assistance. We currently have around 100 children and their families actively working with us, and dozens more have passed through the door (with a few proud tears being shed by all members of the team) since we first opened. With numerous projects in the works to empower and educate the autism community, there is no limit to what we can achieve!
“We will endeavour to continue expanding our services to more families in need and their incredible children,” says Shani Lits, Program Director at The Ernie Els Centre for Autism. “To everyone who supports us in our endeavours, we say a heartfelt thank you.”
The whole team at The Ernie Els Centre for Autism would also like to extend a special thank you to:
- Ernie Els wines, for ensuring we make our Golf days and other fundraising events remain pure class!
- Broadlink, who have sponsored us for several years now; we truly appreciate your support!
- Courier IT, for assisting us with all our couriering needs.
- Compleat Golfer, for extending their platform and helping us raise awareness and understanding about the Autism Spectrum, and the community needs, in South Africa.
3. Ernie’s Army raises funds for autism in the 94.7 Cycle Challenge 2016
On Sunday the 20th of November the Ernie Els team participated in the 2016 Telkom 94.7 Cycle Challenge. The Ride for a Purpose campaign has proven to provide an incomparable platform for cyclists to create awareness about personal causes that are close to their hearts, annually for over 10 years. We were fortunate enough to have over 60 riders as part of ‘Ernie’s Army’ (tripling our 2015 group size).
“This is the third year that The Ernie Els Centre for Autism in South Africa has put forward a team in this superb charity-driven event,” commented Ernie, “and I want to personally thank all of our riders, which this year included my great friend and Springbok legend Victor Matfield, champion cyclist Jac-Louis van Wyk, top golf trick-shot artist Michael Scholz and Nico Van Rensburg of The Els Group. Great job guys.”
The day was certainly a resounding success. We really felt that support of ‘Ernie’s Army’, as it allowed us to bring awareness to the Autism Community. Our very own Chanel Baumgarten from our Cape Town branch, as well as two of our Centre Dads, took on the challenge. The rest of the team were on hand to cheer on our riders on the three ‘power zones’ that we had set up to help rehydrate and re-energize our team.
“We could not have taken on this event without the support of our partners: Ernie Els Wines, Electro Water, USN SA, F61, J&J Cycling and Incredible Connection, so a big thank you to them,” commented Shani Lits, Program Director at The Ernie Els Centre for Autism. “Thank you also to all of our riders for their amazing enthusiasm and support, and a special thank you to our 2016 custodian Michael Scholz. We are extremely grateful and so excited that many of our riders have expressed interest in riding for us again next year!”