Ernie Els has 76 professional career victories to his name, including four Major Championships, two World Golf Championships and a record seven World Matchplay titles.
As a former World No.1 Ernie is one of the most prolific winners of his generation and the global reach of his victories is almost without parallel. Ernie has triumphed in tournaments in South Africa, Europe, the US, Asia, the Far East, the Middle East and Australasia. Ernie was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011 and the South African Golf Hall of Fame in 2009. Click here for the full list of career wins.
Ernie was born in South Africa on 17 October 1969. As a youngster, he was outstanding in cricket, rugby and tennis. At the age of 13 he won a significant regional tennis event, the Eastern Transvaal Junior Championships. A year later aged 14 and playing off scratch, Ernie won the World Junior Golf Championship in San Diego, California. Ernie was just 16 years old when he formally competed against professional golfers. He was awarded his Junior Springbok colours in 1984, the State President Sports Award in 1987, and in 1988 his full Springbok colours.
Away from the golf course, Ernie’s business interests successfully encompass golf course design and hospitality, including The Els Club Collection, Els Performance Golf Academy, Els Club Estates and Big Easy Winebar & Grill, along with an award winning wine portfolio created by Ernie Els Wines in the heart of South Africa’s wine country, Stellenbosch. In 2019, Ernie also launched his own pet products business.
Ernie has uniquely transcended his sport by virtue of his groundbreaking charitable endeavors and fundraising. Ernie and his wife Liezl founded The Els for Autism Foundation in 2009, spearheading a campaign that led to the opening in 2015 of The Els Center of Excellence in Florida, a world-class site hosting leading-edge programs and services for individuals with autism. Ernie’s other great philanthropic passion is The Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation in South Africa, established in 1999 with the purpose of identifying and assisting young individuals predominantly from families of limited resources and to deliver to them educational assistance and golfing opportunities. Among its former members are 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen and multiple Tour winners Branden Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
Notable Golf Records & Statistics
– Ernie holds the record for the most consecutive weeks inside the Top-10 of the Official World Golf Ranking (758 weeks between 19 June 1994 and 11 January 2009).
– Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
– With a T7 finish at the 2019 Maybank Championship, Ernie became the first player to record 300 career top-ten finishes since the inception of the Official Golf World Rankings in 1986.
– Ernie holds the record for the most consecutive cuts made (82) on the European Tour (from the 2000 Johnnie Walker Classic to the 2007 Johnnie Walker Classic).
– Holds the European Tour record for the lowest 72-hole total relative to par (29-under par, 2003 Johnnie Walker Classic).
– Holds the European Tour record for the lowest first 36-hole total relative to par (18-under par, 2003 Johnnie Walker Classic).
– Holds the European Tour record for the lowest first 54-hole total relative to par (23-under par, 2003 Johnnie Walker Classic).
– Jointly holds the European Tour record for the most birdies in one round (12, 1994 Dubai Desert Classic).
– Shot a career low round (60, 12-under par) in the 2004 Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne.
– Twice No.1 on the European Tour Order of Merit, now known as the Race to Dubai (2003, ’04).
– Three times European Tour Player of the Year (1994, ’02, ’03).
– PGA Tour Rookie of the Year (1994).
– 19 career hole-in-ones, most recent at The Pure Championship at Pebble Beach in 2020.
Ernie has represented South Africa in professional team golf on 22 occasions: 9 Dunhill Cups, 5 World Cups and 8 Presidents Cups (International Team).
– Ernie holds the all-time record for number of rounds in the 60s at the Open Championship, a total of 42. Sir Nick Faldo is in second place on the list, with 37 rounds in the 60s.
– Ernie was the first man in history to shoot all four rounds in the 60s in an Open Championship, a feat he achieved at Royal St George’s in 1993. He then did it again at Troon in 2004.
Off the Golf Course
For his charitable endeavours Ernie has received many awards:
– Charlie Bartlett Award by the Golf Writers Association of America.
– Jefferson Award, essentially a Nobel Prize for Public Service, for outstanding athlete in service.
– Named one of the ‘Top Five Most Positive Athletes in the World’ by the United Nations NGO Voting Academy.
– Golf Foundation Spirit of Golf Award for his achievements as a player, for his contribution to golf and commitment to young people in golf and education.
– Metropolitan Golf Writers Association (MGWA) Winnie Palmer Award for his foundation work on behalf of autism. The MGWA had previously conferred on Ernie its prestigious Gold Tee Award.
– Eighth recipient of the Denver-based Nicholson Award for ‘a lifetime commitment and dedication to the game of golf’.
– Ernie was also voted the ‘Golf Course Designer of the Year’ at the 2015 World Golf Awards.
– Payne Stewart Award in 2015.
– Heisman Humanitarian Award 2017 in recognition of work for autism.
– Old Tom Morris Award 2018 from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.
– Jim Murray Award 2018 from the Golf Writers Association of America.
– Receives the Arnold Palmer Open Award presented by the Association of Golf Writers at the 2018 Open Championship.
– In 2020 accepts Honorary Membership of the R&A.
– In 2023 receives the Francis Ouimet Award in recognition of his contribution to golf and the community through his philanthropic endeavors, notably the Els for Autism Foundation.