Ernie Els

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Updated On October 27, 2022
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According to the “Official World Golf Ranking,” Theodore Ernest Els is a world-class South African professional golfer who was once ranked one in the world. He participated in a variety of sports as a child, including tennis, cricket, and rugby. At the age of 8, he began golfing. At the age of 13, he won the tennis competition known as the “Eastern Transvaal Junior Championship.” He quickly became quite interested in golf. He decided to focus on golf after acting as a “scratch handicap” in his early teens. After winning the Boys 13–14 Junior World Golf Championship, he quickly gained notoriety. A few years later, he became the youngest-ever champion of the South African Amateur Championship. This accomplished golfer turned professional in 1989 and quickly gained the moniker “The Big Easy” due to his towering stature and fluid golf swing. Among his 71 career victories to date, he has won four major golf championships, including two ‘US Open’ titles and two ‘The Open’ titles. Seven victories in the “World Match Play Championship” set a record for him. Additionally, he twice won the European Tour Order of Merit and three times won the title of European Tour Player of the Year. In 2011, he was admitted to the “World Golf Hall of Fame.”

Early Childhood & Life

Hettie and Neels Els welcomed him into the world on October 17, 1969, in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was brought up in Lambton, Germany.

He played tennis, cricket, and rugby as a youngster and started playing golf at the age of eight. The first person to teach him how to play golf was his father, a trucking executive who worked at the “Germiston Golf Club.” He eventually started to play better in the game than his father and older brother, Dirk.

At age 13, he won the “Eastern Transvaal Junior Championship,” another sport in which he began to thrive. But by the time he was 14, he had a “scratch handicap,” and he decided to concentrate on golf. In 1984, he competed in and won the Boys 13–14 division of the “IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championship.”

After becoming 17 years old, he won the “South African Amateur Championship.” By doing so, he broke Gary Player’s previous record and established a new record for the youngest champion ever.

Career of Ernie Els

After winning the “South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship” that year, he turned professional in 1989.

In the 1991–1992 season and once more in the 1994–1995 season, he won the “Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.” In the meanwhile, he achieved his first victory outside of his country in 1993 in the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament, an annual competition on the “Japan Golf Tour.”

His first major championship victory occurred in 1994 at the Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, where he finished first with a score of 279 (-5). Colin Montgomerie of Scotland and Loren Roberts of the United States ended in a tie for second place.

In his early years, he competed all over the world, winning the 1994 Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour. He also won the championship in 2002 and 2005.

1994 proved to be a very productive year for Els as he defeated Scottish player Colin Montgomerie 4 and 2 to claim his first “World Match Play Championship” title. The next year, he successfully defended his championship by defeating Australian golfer Steve Elkington 3 & 1. In 1995, he also triumphed in the “GTE Byron Nelson Golf Classic” competition.

In 1996, he defeated Vijay Singh of Fiji with a score of 3 and 2 to win his third consecutive “World Match Play Championship” at Wentworth. He accomplished something unprecedented in the sport’s history by winning the championship three times in a row. He won the “South African Open” to round off the year.

He won his second US Open championship in June 1997 in the 97th ‘US Open’ at the ‘Blue Course’ of the ‘Congressional Country Club’ in Bethesda, Maryland, with a score of 276 (-4) and a winning margin of 1 stroke. Colin Montgomerie placed second once more. With this achievement, he became the first non-American golfer to win the event twice since Scottish-American Alex Smith (1906, 1910). Vijay Singh ultimately defeated him for the “World Match Play Championship” that year.

In 2000, the Board of Directors of the “European Tour,” the main golf tour in Europe, awarded him an honorary life membership in recognition of his two US Open victories and three World Match Play Championship victories. He placed second in three of the four “Major Championships” that year, including the “US Open,” “The Open Championship,” and the “Masters Tournament.”

The most fruitful year of his career thus far was probably 2002, when he triumphed at Muirfield in the oldest of professional golf’s four major tournaments, “The Open Championship,” earning the famed “Claret Jug” trophy for the first time. Stuart Appleby, Steve Elkington, and Thomas Levet finished second, third, and fourth, respectively. He also won the “Genuity Championship” that year, finishing ahead of world no. 1 Tiger Woods. The same year, Ernie also captured his fourth World Match Play Championship crown.

In 2003, 2004, and 2007, he won his fifth, sixth, and seventh “World Match Play Championship” championships, respectively. In contrast, 2004 saw the start of the “Big Five Era,” during which time Els, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, and Retief Goosen dominated the sport, alternating places among the top five in the “World Golf Ranking.” Up until the beginning of 2007, they primarily shared the top five positions.

Els won his second Claret Jug trophy at the 141st Open Championship in July 2012 at the Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire, England, with a winning score of 273 (7) and a winning margin of one stroke. Adam Scott came in second place.

This accomplished golfer also won the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year award in 1994 and three European Tour Player of the Year awards in 1994, 2002, and 2003. In 2003 and 2004, he also took home the title of “European Tour Order of Merit” winner. He received the Payne Stewart Award in 2015 and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

Recognition & Achievements

He holds a number of records, including holding a Top 10 ranking in the “Official World Golf Ranking” for 758 consecutive weeks, from June 19, 1994, to January 11, 2009. On the “European Tour,” which began with the “Johnnie Walker Classic” in 2000, he also made the most consecutive cuts (82). Els also runs a wine-making company in addition to her other businesses, which include designing golf courses.

Additionally, he runs the “Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation,” a non-profit organization that seeks out young golfers with talent and potential, mostly from disadvantaged households in his native country, and supports them both morally and financially as they pursue their golfing goals.

Individual Life of Ernie Els

He married Liezl Wehmeyer in Cape Town on December 31, 1998. Ben Neels Els and Samantha Leigh Els are their two children.

In 2008, the accomplished golfer started sporting an “Autism Speaks” badge on his golf bag. A US organization called “Autism Speaks” promotes an understanding of autism and funds research into the disorder. Later, Ernie disclosed that Ben, his 5-year-old son, has autism.

He still actively participates with his wife in numerous autism-related philanthropic endeavors. He created the ‘Els for Autism Pro-Am,’ an annual golf outing for charity, in 2009. The Renaissance Learning Center, which caters to children with autism, received the revenues from the first event, totaling $725,000. Along with establishing the “Els Center of Excellence,” the pair also plans to expand “The Renaissance Learning Center” to a new campus.

At the Wentworth Estate in the south of England, Ernie primarily resides. Apart from their visits to South Africa for Ben’s medical care, Els and his family spend a lot of time in their home in Jupiter, Florida, in the United States.

Ernie Els Net Worth

A professional golfer from South Africa named Ernie Els has an estimated net worth of $85 million. Ernie Els’ career accomplishments include two victories in the US Open and the Open Championship as well as a record seven victories in the World Match Play Championship. Els also manages a winery, a golf course design company, and a humanitarian foundation in addition to his playing career.