Els joins Golf’s most Elite clubon May 12, 2011
Ernie Els became only the third South African golfer to be inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame, and his name now joins his celebrated countrymen Bobby Locke and Gary Player as well as the most notable names in the sport to be honoured. Els can also boast the distinction of being accepted at the first ballot – a rare occurrence.
First established in 1940, Golf’s Hall of Fame honours not only the greatest players in the game, but also those individuals who have made important contributions to the sport. Els joins a total of 136 people who have been so honoured, and one of the first to offer his congratulations was Sun International’s Alastair Roper, tournament director of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
“I have been privileged to now Ernie for many years, and his place among the famous names that are honoured in the Hall of Fame is well deserved,” says Roper. “Besides being our most successful professional golfer since Gary Player, he has been a great ambassador for the game in South Africa and abroad, and his work ethic and sportsmanship has been a fine example to all our sportsmen and women.”
“Ernie was first invited to join the elite field in the Nedbank Golf Challenge in 1992, and although he competed regularly after making his debut, it was not until 1999 that he first won – and we have fond memories of his record-breaking score of 25-under par that year, a mark that remains the lowest tournament total. The following year he won again, becoming the first player to win $2 million in a single event – that was after his playoff against Lee Westwood. He completed his hat trick of victories in our tournament in 2002, and there is no reason not to believe that he might well become the first player to win four Nedbank Golf Challenge titles,” says Roper.
The 41-year-old Els (an individual must be at least 40 before being eligible for induction), who has 62 tournament victories to his name including three major titles, joined five other inductees at St. Augustine, Florida for the two-hour ceremony. Els was elected under the PGA Tour ballot, under the international ballot Japanese professional Jumbo Ozaki was honoured, and in the veterans category Doug Ford and the late Jock Hutchinson were inducted. Former US President George H.W. Bush and the late Frank Chirkinian, the television producer for the CBS network, were inducted under the Lifetime Achievement categories.