All the latest news and stories from the world of golf, Ernie Els Design, Ernie Els Wines and across Ernie’s various philanthropic interests.
1. Price names Ernie as one of his three captains’ assistants for 2017 Presidents Cup
In an event to celebrate the one-year countdown to the 2017 Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey, International team captain Nick Price named Ernie Els, Tony Johnstone and Geoff Ogilvy as his captain’s assistants. Ernie is new to the role, but obviously has plenty of experience in Presidents Cups having competed eight times (1996, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2001, 2013), which is tied for most by an International Team member, with Vijay Singh, and he owns an overall record of 20-18-2. Ernie is also tied for second all-time (with Singh and Tiger Woods) for most match appearances in Presidents Cup history (40), and has won more matches than any other International team member (20).
Ernie maintains that he is still committed to trying to play his way on to the team, but nevertheless could not hide his pride at being chosen as part of the leadership team. “To be with Nick is going to be wonderful,” said Ernie. “We go back a long time. He was my mentor on the TOUR, and I played a lot of practice rounds with him, got a lot of advice from Nick. We’ve become really great friends since then, and I can’t wait to help him. It’s going to be an unreal Presidents Cup. To be at Liberty National looking at the financial district and the rest of Manhattan, it’s going to be incredible. The energy that comes out of that place is just crazy, and I think – I couldn’t see anything else beating that venue. I think it’s just going to be terrific.”
“Ernie and I have been good friends for a long time, and I’m thrilled he has agreed to join the International Team as a captain’s assistant,” said Price. “His Presidents Cup and match-play records are exceptional, and he is extremely well-respected by his fellow players, which is such an asset in the team room and on the golf course during a competition like this. I am confident he will add an incredible dynamic to the Team over the next year and during event week.”
About the Presidents Cup
The Presidents Cup, a team match play competition featuring 24 of the world’s top golfers – 12 from the United States and 12 from around the world, excluding Europe – is held every two years, and since 1996 has alternated between United States and international venues. The Presidents Cup was developed to give the world’s best non-European players an opportunity to compete in international team match-play competition. The U.S. Team has won nine of the 11 previous Presidents Cups, and the only outright win by the International Team came at the 1998 event in Melbourne. A historic 17-17 tie came in 2003 when the event was held in South Africa. The Presidents Cup is a unique golf event in that there is no purse or prize money; instead, each player, captain and captain’s assistant allocates an equal portion of the funds generated to charities of his choice. Since the inception of the Presidents Cup in 1994, more than $38.4 million has been raised for charity from event proceeds. Over the past 21 years, the Presidents Cup has impacted more than 450 charities in 15 countries worldwide and 35 states in the U.S.
2. Tournament host Ernie Els thrilled that Rory to play 2017 SA Open
Former World No.1 and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy has confirmed his appearance in the 2017 BMW South African Open hosted by the city of Ekurhuleni. It will be his first appearance in the event since 2009, when incidentally he finished tied-3rd alongside Ernie Els, who is now player-host of golf’s second oldest national open. The field at Glendower Golf Club on January 12-15 will also include South Africa’s two Olympians, Brandon Stone, the defending SA Open champion, and Jaco Van Zyl.
Ernie first discussed the idea with Rory during the 2015 Irish Open, which is hosted by McIlroy’s Foundation. Ernie said he was thrilled that McIlroy had kept his word. “Rory was very serious about coming to South Africa when we talked about it at the Irish Open,” said Ernie, “and I’m glad that he made the commitment so soon. His presence will help the growth of the SA Open, which has been doing so well over the last few years.”
“I can’t wait to come back to play in South Africa,” said McIlroy. “It’s been a while since I was there. Ernie’s done such a great job of assembling a great field. Obviously we’re also there to support a great cause in Els for Autism.”
“We are delighted that Rory will play in the SA Open,” said Sunshine Tour Executive Director Selwyn Nathan. “His presence adds even more value to the tournament for our generous hosts, the City of Ekurhuleni, and our title sponsor BMW South Africa.”
“As BMW, we have a vision to help grow this tournament into the biggest and most aspirational tournament on the continent,” said Tim Abbott: CEO South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. “A player of Rory’s calibre completely reinforces the type of tournament we are working hard to build.”
Tickets for the 2017 BMW SA Open proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni are on sale at: www.ticketpros.co.za.
3. Sixth Els for Autism Golf Challenge aims high and scores!
Hazeltine National, Trump National Doral, TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas, Rich Harvest Farms, East Lake, Baltusrol, Chambers Bay, TPC Boston, Harbour Town. It reads like a segment from the PGA TOUR schedule, but it is in fact a list of some of the host venues on this year’s Els for Autism Golf Challenge. Now in its sixth year, and still the largest amateur charity-driven tournament in the world, the Golf Challenge is thriving due to the participation of thousands of golfers and fundraisers, plus the dedicated support of loyal sponsors and some of the finest golf clubs across North America and Canada. Many of the events were, as in previous years, sell-outs well in advance of the day. Some of the events raised in excess of $150,000 on a single day, which means that at the time of writing fundraising was closing-in fast on this year’s annual $2.5 million target.
Ernie and Liezl can now look forward to hosting the top fundraisers, donors, winning golfers, partners and sponsors, at The Grand Finale, a two-day event in Las Vegas which includes an autism seminar, golf on top courses in the Vegas area, and entertainment. “It’s our way of saying thanks to everyone who helps us raise money and awareness for autism,” says Ernie.
All in all, it’s been another incredible year for Els for Autism, a fact acknowledged in one of Ernie’s recent online blogs. “We just celebrated the first anniversary of the opening of The Els Center of Excellence in Florida and not only are the Lower School students benefiting from the facilities on site, but with various programming initiatives we are also helping many families nationally and internationally,” commented Ernie. “A huge part of the reason we’re in this position is due to the ongoing success of the Golf Challenge. Liezl and I are just so humbled by the level of support we continue to receive from our family of golfers, donors, partners and sponsors. We’re now really making a positive impact on the lives of individuals and families on the spectrum, which was of course our intention and dream from the start.”
For more information visit the website: www.elsforautism.com.
4. Ernie pays tribute to Arnold Palmer
Ernie was among many major champions and Ryder Cup players to join family, friends – not to mention some 4000 fans – of Arnold Palmer at a memorial service for the great man, who passed away at the end of September. Ernie recalled how winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill twice, in 1998 and 2010, was “the greatest thrill and honour”.
The service, which took place in Arnie’s home town of Latrobe, PA, lasted more than two hours and included some incredibly moving speeches, notably by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold’s grandson Sam Saunders, himself a PGA TOUR pro. Jack Nicklaus closed with the words, “remember when Arnold Palmer touched your life and touched your heart. Please don’t forget why.”
“Truly, none of us ever will,” commented Ernie in his online blog. “Of course it was bound to be an emotional event…and it really was. But it was also an event full of smiles and laughter, a moment to reflect and remember a great man and to celebrate his achievements in golf and in the wider context. His contribution to golf is beyond measure and it’s no exaggeration to say that the modern game would not be as it is now without Arnold Palmer.”
Ernie went on to write, “Obviously his prime playing days were before my time, but we’ve seen the classic footage and the old black-and-white photographs in which Arnold’s film-star good looks, warmth and huge charisma just shone out. He attracted an almost frenzied following from galleries, the famous Arnie’s Army. Golf loved him and he loved it back in equal measure. He won majors, he won tournaments, and he lost tournaments, in his own unique, inimitable way. He was built like a middleweight boxer and he slashed and heaved at the ball with his huge hands and forearms; it was as though he was summoning every fibre in his mind and body to overpower a golf course. I remember John Jacobs saying that ‘the ground shook when Arnold hit a golf ball’. You can imagine!
“Arnold was not only a great, great golfer, but also a man of enormous heart and generosity; one of the game’s true gentlemen and someone who did an enormous amount of good work for others, not least through his charity ‘Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation’, which for more than 50 years has raised millions of dollars to improve the lives of people in need.
“He was also incredibly kind to young players, including me at the start of my career when he invited me to play in his tournament in 1993. We played the first two rounds together that year and it was an experience that I still cherish. For me and for many players it remained one of the highlights of the year to play his tournament and meet up with him at his beloved Bay Hill. For me to win the tournament twice, in 1998 and 2010, was of course the greatest thrill and honour. Honestly, I look at the photos today of him presenting me with the trophy and us laughing together beside the 18th green, and it sends a shiver down the back of my neck.
“There will never be another golfer like Arnold Palmer and the game of golf will miss him so much. But we can all feel blessed to have shared a little slice of time on this earth with the great man and we should celebrate the fact that he lived the fullest life imaginable. His legacy, his record, his charitable spirit, will live on forever. RIP ‘the King’.”
5. ‘Heaven on earth!’ The Els Club Malaysia opens for play
The introduction of South East Asia’s newest golf destination was met with high praise from the privileged guests who experienced the first rounds of official play at The Els Club Desaru Coast, The Ocean Course, in September 2016. It is the first of two-major golf developments from Ernie Els Design to open in Desaru Coast, a destination that spans over 3,900 acres along a pristine 17km beachfront facing the South China Sea. To mark the occasion, Themed Attractions Resorts & Hotels Sdn. Bhd. (TAR&H), the owner of The Els Club Desaru Coast, hosted a group of influential media to unveil what is set to become one of the nation’s flagship golf and tourism projects. Guests lucky enough to experience the first official weekend were unanimous in their praise for the new course, pointing to the service, quality and layout of the property as being of the highest standard.
Ernie has expressed his excitement at this latest project and indeed its potential to boost tourism in the region. “The Els Club Malaysia has everything going for it,” says Ernie. “You have a great location, it’s like heaven on earth there! And it’s in close proximity to many major Asian hubs. You have a beautiful coastline that takes your breath away and an ownership group dedicated to creating some of the finest tourism attractions in the world. When you add these ingredients together, you have the makings of something very special. For me, as soon as I stepped foot on the property I could immediately envisage in my mind’s eye how the golf courses would sit. That is always a ‘tell’ for me when approaching a design project. Of course ideas evolve, but what never changes is the power of that initial reaction and the influence it has on the creative process.”
The Ocean Course, as the name suggests, sits adjacent to the shoreline and consists of three distinct 9-hole loops – the Coast, the Lakes and the Ridge. The playing experience is defined by great views, high quality playing surfaces and sound strategic values. A mix of strong bunkering and water hazards defend the course, while the greens all have strong strategic value. The Valley Course neighbours the Ocean Course and shares some of the same spectacular views.
Ernie, when speaking about his collaboration with Vijay Singh, described it as an extremely positive experience. “It was great to have Vijay on board,” says Ernie. “Obviously he has been one of the world’s best golfers for many years, but he clearly also has a great eye for design. All of us at Ernie Els Design have been impressed with his attention to detail and his willingness to immerse himself across each and every aspect of the design process.”
In addition to 45 holes of championship quality golf, The Els Club Malaysia will feature two casual dining restaurants including an all-day café and bar ‘262’ created as an ode Ernie’s PGA Tour record-breaking 72-hole aggregate in the 2003 Mercedes Championship. The property can also boast an Els Performance Golf Academy, which will give golfers an opportunity to work on their games in an inspiring environment, with access to the very best facilities and technology, somewhere they can improve their golf and also have a bit of fun with friends and family.
“What we’re offering here is the best of the best; a ‘Tour Pro for the Day’ type of experience where golfers can come and get great coaching and have access to some Tour standard swing technology and facilities,” adds Ernie. “Hopefully we can also inspire the next generation to take up the game and give them the tools that will allow them to enjoy the sport for life.”
Muhammad Zainal Ashikin, Chief Executive Officer Destinations Resorts & Hotel Portfolio of TAR&H commented, “Today marks a major first step in the development of Desaru Coast. We have made considerable strides in bringing the very best partners to Johor, and have set in motion a tourism legacy that will deliver jobs and a world class experience for all who visit. Today we have opened The Els Club Desaru Coast – The Ocean, which will fly the flag for the development and pave the way for a succession of top-class amenity introductions.”