All the latest news and stories from the world of golf, Ernie Els Design, Ernie Els Wines, and across Ernie’s various philanthropic interests, plus a dip into the archives for a standout moment in Ernie’s career.
1. Presidents Cup update: A captain’s blog…
With barely a week until captain Ernie Els makes his four wildcard selections, here he shares with us some further thoughts about the upcoming Presidents Cup and how the International Team is shaping up, assessing the balance between veterans and rookies.
It’s wonderful to provide an update now that my first eight International Team members have been confirmed for the Presidents Cup. I’m so thrilled with the makeup of our team thus far. We have a great mix of veteran leadership and young talent that will make for a formidable team at Royal Melbourne. Abraham Ancer, C.T. Pan, Haotong Li and Cameron Smith are all terrific young players and are very deserving of this opportunity. They have also aided in the diversity of our team, which I think is very important.
It’s special to have players on the team who come from such different regions like Chinese Taipei, Mexico and China that have never been represented in the Presidents Cup before. This will bring new people from the world that will be watching us for the first time. From that point of view, this is a unique Presidents Cup because we’re going to have potentially a billion more people watching this Presidents Cup just because of the different regions we’re all from.
For someone like Abraham who won the Aussie Open last year, he understands the Australian culture of golf. I know how much he wants it. He’s a real steely player and someone I look forward to watching compete.
I’ve played with Haotong many times and had a front row seat to his beautiful 63 at The Open two years ago that nearly won him the tournament. He’s got all the qualities of a world-class player and maybe become No. 1 in the world one day. He’s that kind of talent.
C.T. is another rookie with so much potential. Overall, he’s got a very sound game. He manages his game very well and I can see him being a great partner to a lot of players. And then finally with Cameron, I was able to see him team up with Leish at the World Cup of Golf at Metropolitan where they finished runner up. Their games seem to mesh very well, so we will certainly look at them as a potential pairing.
While I’m excited for those players who get to experience the excitement of a Presidents Cup for the first time, our veteran leadership is going to be a key to our success. Scottie, Louis, Leish and Hideki all know what it takes to succeed in the Presidents Cup, and I’m very pleased with how they will contribute to the foundation of this team.
Specifically with Scottie, he’s in the position to have a leading role. During our team meetings, I’ve asked Scottie every single time to say something to the players. He’s got so much to give. He’s playing in his ninth straight Presidents Cup, so he’s the most capped player in the history of the Cup now, but he’s got a lot to go and it’s great to see him playing well again. We will be leaning on Scottie in a big way, but more than anything, I want him to have a good week. He was a rookie in 2003, and I kind of took him under my wing in South Africa, and we had some success down there in the team formats playing together and really bonded as two players can. And I know Scottie has that in his mind, to get this team bonded the way we’ve got it done a couple of times.
With this being such a unique year having the Presidents Cup played in December, I’ve stressed in our team meetings that they’ve got to try and be prepared and have every part of their game at championship level. It will also help that our team will have a nice representation at the Australian Open. Quite a few guys have committed from what I’ve heard, and with Abraham Ancer as the defending champion it will hopefully add to the buzz for the Presidents Cup.
I’ve also imparted as much wisdom and knowledge about Royal Melbourne as I can. I’ve talked to them about how I feel the golf course flows, how I feel the best way to attack the course. I’ve tried to tell them about the Australian conditions which can be fast, a little windy and quite warm. That’s why short game is very important around Australian golf courses, especially Melbourne. I’ve got all kinds of different plans to show them how each and every hole should be played, the way I think we can get the best out of it, and then we’ll take it from there.
And while I expect to have a solid game plan heading into the week, we can’t expect to walk out of there with the Cup without the support from the Australian public in Melbourne. I think it’s very important that the crowd understand that their home team for the matches is the International side, and I think the Australians on the team will play a huge role in getting the crowd behind us.
As we look toward rounding out the team with the four picks, it’s going to be huge for us to pick the right players to join the team, and my job is already gotten tougher due to how well some of the guys have played as of late. A nice problem to have!
Joaquin Niemann’s win at The Greenbrier was only a matter of time. He’s just an immense young talent who has a successful career ahead of him. And then to be followed up by Sebastian Muñoz is just a testament to the growth of golf down in Latin America.
Sungjae Im is another who has shown a lot of consistency this past year and capped it off with Rookie of the Year honors on the PGA TOUR. He played 34 events last season and has seen his form continue with a runner-up finish two weeks ago. Several players from Korea have my attention including Ben An, Sung Kang and Si Woo Kim, who competed on the 2017 team.
Even Adam Hadwin, another 2017 team member, was back in contention this past weekend at the Safeway Open.
As for Jason Day, we’d have loved to have seen him qualify in the top eight, but he is always going to be on the list of guys we’re going to look at for the top 12. He didn’t have a year like we’re used to seeing from him, but we’ve still got a long way to go. I plan on checking in with him frequently and look forward to watching him compete in the coming weeks.
At the end of the day, I want to look at rookies who are showing a lot of promise and then guys who have had wins in the past. I will also speak to the eight guys on the team. We’re going to have several discussions because these four players will need to help this team blend even further.
2. Awards & Innovation at Els Performance Golf Academy
The team at Els Performance Golf Academy [EPGA] is toasting another award, having been voted ‘best academy and range facility’ in the country. It is one of several accolades bestowed on this groundbreaking facility, located in the beautiful master-planned Ecopark residential community close to the vibrant Vietnamese capital Hanoi. What’s more, the EPGA’s ‘Little Easy’ program in conjunction with Discover Golf has proved to be a real hit with young golfers in the region. Essentially, the Discover Golf ethos encourages kids to base their formative golfing experiences around a ‘free play’ approach to the game. This is then followed by more deliberate and formal types of coaching and practice.
“This system blends the best of both worlds”, comments Quintin van der Berg, Head Teaching Professional at EPGA. “It encompasses some of the the industry’s most robust coaching plans and execution strategies, with great communication tools from coach to pupil. At the same time, it is also completely adaptable. We can tailor it to an individual’s preferences and that is very empowering for the kids we teach. It really is a junior golf learning experience unlike any other. For that reason, we’re finding it is giving us a lot of reach in the market, bringing more and more youngsters from far and wide to experience the EPGA effect!”
EPGA’s team of Discover Golf certified pros are highly qualified to introduce young guns to the game and guarantee an unforgettable learning experience. And with its ‘Little Easy’ program, all golfers get the ultimate blend of deliberate practice and technical development, with continued learning and free play through daily goals and missions on the dedicated app.
For more information, visit the website: http://epga.com.vn/.
3. Ernie looking forward to playing 2019 Nedbank Golf Challenge
“It’s always a pleasure to play in South Africa and particularly at the Nedbank Golf Challenge,” says Ernie. “I’ve got some great memories of the tournament – particularly from my three wins – and I’m pleased that I’ve been able to support the event as it has continued to grow over the years.”
The four-time Major winner has enjoyed great success at the Gary Player Country Club, claiming the title three times – in 1999, 2000 and 2002. He became the third three-time winner of the prestigious event – after David Frost and Nick Price – while Lee Westwood became the fourth player to join that prestigious list last year by wrapping up a hat-trick of victories for his maiden Rolex Series triumph.
“I’m looking forward to a busy end of the year with the Presidents Cup coming up in December. I’m pleased that I can include some competitive golf on home soil in that schedule, and I’m sure it will be a memorable week, especially with the 40th anniversary celebrations.” said Ernie.
Tournament Host Gary Player commented, “I am thrilled that golf fans will once again be treated to seeing one of the finest golfers in history competing at the Gary Player Country Club for this Rolex Series event. Ernie’s success in the Nedbank Golf Challenge is perhaps outshone only by his constant and loyal support of this tournament over the years, which has been invaluable. I look forward to shaking the big man’s hand on the first tee once again.”
“Ernie Els is the most successful golfer in the history of the Nedbank Golf Challenge and for many local golf fans he has been the face of South African golf and of ‘Africa’s Major’. Ernie is a global giant of the game who has always represented South Africa with pride, and we are proud to welcome him back to the Nedbank Golf Challenge where he is always a firm favourite with the local crowds.” said Mike Brown, Chief Executive Nedbank Group.
“Ernie’s status as a truly global golfer for so many years, and as a three-time champion, has played a major part in the growth of the Nedbank Golf Challenge and the greater awareness of Sun City as a leading tourist destination. We are delighted to have him in this year’s field as one of the greatest golfers in history and a true icon of South African golf.” said Anthony Leeming, Chief Executive Sun International.
4. Ernie’s Kit List
As Ernie gets ready for his next stretch of tournaments in South Africa, and then in Australia either side of his captaincy duties in the Presidents Cup, we take a peek into his golf bag to see what equipment he’s using.
Driver: XXIO X driver 10.5
3-Wood: XXIO X 3-wood
Irons 2-5: Srixon ZU85 utility irons with KBS S-taper 130X shaft
Irons 6-PW: Srixon Z785 irons with KBS S-taper 130X shaft
Wedge: Cleveland RTX4 wedges 52MB, 56MB, 60LB with KBS S taper 130X
Golf Ball: Srixon Z Star XV
Apparel: Bobby Jones & Sunice Sports
5. From the archive…
During this week in November 1994, Ernie won the inaugural Sarazen World Open at Chateau Elan, Georgia. It was quite the stellar season for Ernie, with him having already won his first Dubai Desert Classic, US Open and Toyota World Matchplay titles. He would also triumph in the then season-ending event that was the Johnnie Walker World Championship in Tryall, Jamaica.