September 27, 2017 | News Article
Ernie Els, Founder of the Els for Autism Foundation, will be the recipient of the 2018 Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA)
September 27, 2017 – Els also founded The Ernie Els Foundation in 1999 in his homeland of South Africa, and then joined forces with the Fancourt Hotel and Golf Estate to establish The Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation to help identify underprivileged teens who show talent in golf and give them a chance to reach their full potential in sport and education.
GCSAA’s highest honor, the OTM Award has been presented annually since 1983 to an individual, who through a lifetime commitment to the game of golf, has helped to mold the welfare of the game in a manner and style exemplified by Old Tom Morris. Morris, a four-time Open Championship winner, was the longtime superintendent at St Andrews in Scotland until his death in 1908.
“I am honored and humbled to be asked to receive the Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association,” said Els. “As I have grown in my involvement with the game of golf, from professional golfer to golf course designer, I have come to value more and more the role of golf course superintendents. They are as vital to this game as ever, and as vital to this game as anyone.”
Known as the Big Easy because of his stature and fluid golf swing, Els has 70 professional career wins and is a former No. 1 ranked player who spent a record 788 weeks ranked in the top-10 in the world. He won his first major championship, the U.S. Open, at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club in 1994 and went on to win another U.S. Open in 1997 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. He also won two Open Championships, in 2002 and 2012, and was the European Player of the Year three times (1994, 2002 and 2003).
But Els’ significant on-course accomplishments took a secondary role in his life when he learned in 2009 that his son Ben was on the autism spectrum. This diagnosis drove the Els family to lead funding for a $30-million Center of Excellence for Autistic children, which opened for 300 students in 2015 in Florida (pictured below). The Center offers professional and medical resources, therapy and education to help autistic children grow to lead full adult lives.