Turning 50 and not slowing down!
My relationship with Ernie Els began in December 1991 after his good friend DeWet Basson won the Hall of Fame Championship, our inaugural event at Fancourt. In the years that followed, we shared many a game of golf with many victims when we partnered! Ernie frequented Fancourt when he was in town as he owned a home in Herald's Bay. I must admit, our friendship grew off the course as much as on it. We shared a few pool tables at Oom Flip's in Herald's Bay and stayed up too late downstairs in the snooker room at the Club. I have travelled with him to courses under construction and hooked up at tournaments around the world. Our wives share the same name and the same amount of drive and I can say with confidence, out of sight is not out of mind.
About a year later, I brought back the original glow-in-the-dark golf ball in my luggage and we launched Night Golf at Fancourt. Ernie and his brother, Dirk, played with us. Playing with three clubs and a putter they shot 33 gross with a ball that travelled about 80% the distance of a normal ball. In the years that followed, we traded clubs on the first tee and I came off second, playing with his stiff, stiff shafts! We played cross-country golf teeing off on 1 Outeniqua and finishing on 4 Montagu (no houses then). Those were the days (and nights).
In '94 Ernie won his first of four majors, The US OPEN at Oakmont. That was the first of four Majors that so easily could have been more. Tiger stifled him 3 times in one year, 2000 where Ernie was runner-up 7 times worldwide and three times in Majors to Tiger, the Masters, the US OPEN and the OPEN Championship. After winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2002, in 2004, Phil took the wind out of Ernie's sails when he finished birdie, birdie to beat Ernie by one at The Masters. Then journeyman Todd Hamilton mastered the rescue club from off the green to defeat Ernie in a four-hole playoff at The Open. But even playing in the Tiger Era couldn't keep Ernie from winning worldwide. He owned the Matchplay Championship at Wentworth, winning a record seven times.
Oakmont in 94 and Congressional in 97 - US Open Titles
Muirfield in 2002 and Royal St Anne's and Lytham in 2012 - his Open Championships
After the 94 US Open, he returned to Fancourt and just happened to be coming up the 18th as I was about to start the prizegiving for the Ladies' Invitational (hosting 120+). When one of the ladies spotted Ernie on the 18th, the entire room started to buzz. Instinctively, I organized cold beers for Ernie and friends in the Montagu Bar in the Old Manor House and quietly informed him on the 18th green that his next stop would be there and not the Clubhouse bar (saved in the nick of time). I often kept Ernie out of the limelight so that he could enjoy his private time. Having said that, he became great friends with Fancourt and its members, a relationship that is strong to this day.
Ernie will go down as one of our greatest golfers of all time, winning around the world. He is not as well known for all that he has done to grow the game. People don't know that the Ernie Els Invitational, an event we started together in the mid-'90s, has helped to raise money for his foundation. The foundation has helped so many young people gain stature in golf and in life. The Ernie Els Invitational became a massive event, drawing top businessmen and top athletes alike - it was a good merge of great people. The event was played over two days with parties, music and the annual auction to see the fundraising through. We have heard endless stories from the Simon Hobdays of the game, danced to Hootie and the Blowfish and other great artists and shared memories for a lifetime.
After Ben was diagnosed with Autism, Ernie and Liezl wasted no time in raising awareness of the condition that affects more than 1 in 59 children with boys 4 times more likely than girls...and the number is rising. After grappling with the news that Ben would be special, Ernie came out with Autism Awareness on his golf bag. His golf legacy will probably be surpassed by his legacy for contributions to Awareness for Autism. The American fundraising has resulted in millions put toward the creation of a special centre for learning in Florida. In South Africa, where funds are independently raised, golf days like ours have helped hundreds of families. He added Els for Autism to the Els Invitational, alternating years for the two.
Ernie and Liezl's kids - Samantha (who is now attending university at Stanford and Ben
Now Liezl and I have been married for nearly two decades. Samantha is a sophomore at Stanford, playing club rugby and making plans to save the world. Our son, Ben, is 17 and nearly as tall as his mom, which means he’s tall. Ben is a student at a public charter school our family started—with help from a lot of friends—called the Els Center for Excellence, in South Florida, where we live. It’s an extraordinary school for about 300 beautiful kids with autism. It’s the most significant thing I’ve done in my life. It would not exist without Liezl, Sam and Ben, and our many friends. I’ll name just a few—Rickie Fowler, Barbara Nicklaus, Johann Rupert, Marvin Shanken—knowing I’m leaving dozens out.
In December, I have the honour of travelling to Australia as an Ambassador for Ernie and the International Team at The President's Cup. It's Ernie against Tiger, again. This time they will be the captains for their sides. Come on, Ernie!
On Thursday, Ernie will turn 50 and he is far from done playing golf, designing courses and making a difference to so many lives. Three Cheers to you, my friend!
The St Francis Links HOTEL by Mantis - SHOW UNITS are under construction
The proposed St Francis Links Hotel by Mantis is being sold as a sectional title scheme. Now, three units are being built as show units to promote sales.
The show unit, comprised of one, two-bedroom unit and two, one-bedroom units will be completed for the season.
Ernie and Linda Müller and their Team from Selective Lighting are making Fridays extra special at St Francis Links. Once a month, they host the Selective Lighting/The Fireworks Friday Competition. We shotgun start the players for 9 holes. Starting times are based on the season, 14h30 in the "Cool Season" and 15h30 in the summer months. Be a part of growing the Club and join us for nine and some good times after golf! Please enter in advance for numbers.
ITEC are our sponsors for OPEN Wednesday (2nd Wednesday) with meat and added prizes. Invite your friends to enjoy SA’s best with special rates for golf, snacks after the game and great prizes – Hey, sometimes Curry Night follows – stay or take away!
Monday Roll-up! Pitch up and play (9 holes or 18 Par-3 from 2pm) let's add you to the What's app group
All day Saturdays: Morning and afternoon fields - the afternoon field will be booked from 12 noon backwards with emphasis on "ready golf"
Monday Men's Book Club - 5pm in Jack's Bar (no reading required)
Ladies' Tea (and Coffee) - Every Tuesday at 10am on the Veranda
Every Great shot starts (and ends) with a SMILE!
Santa and the Links TEAM