Ernie Els


South African born Ernie Els has made a great contribution to the golfing world since he started playing in the mid-1990s. He earned himself the nickname The Big Easy due to his great height teamed with his fluidity on the golf course, which is shown in his seemingly effortless swing. Unusually Els’ game has improved throughout his career, so that in recent years he has produced some of his best play to date. Aside from playing golf, Els has used his name and reputation to go into other lines of work that have been equally successful.


In his early years in South Africa Els tried many sports, and would often be seen on a variety of different pitches. However, he first started playing golf at the age of 8, and it was clear that this was his forte. Although he won the Eastern Transvaal Junior Championships in tennis when he was 13, the following year he was a scratch handicap which finalised his decision to concentrate on playing golf from then on. His first major golfing win was in 1984 when he was awarded the Junior World Golf Championship in the Boys 13-14 category. He turned professional in 1989 after winning the South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship. His first win of a professional tournament came just two years later when he was on the South African Tour. From then on he had a succession of wins, including his first outside his home country in 1993, the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan. In 1994 Els achieved his greatest title to date when he won his first major championship at the US Open.

In his early career Els toured around the world entering all major golf competitions, including the Dubai Desert Classic and the World Match Play Championship, winning both the first year he entered. He defended his title at the next two World Match Play Championships, making 1996 his third year in a row and setting a record for the first player to win three successive titles on a major tournament. 1997 was the best year in Els’ career, starting with him winning his second US Open that led to another record, this time being the first foreign player to win the Open twice. He added the title of Jonny Walker Classic to his list, and defended his title of the Buick Classic which he had earned the previous year for the first time. The World Match Play Championship title was nearly Els’ again, but he narrowly lost it to Vijay Singh in the final.

The next two years were equally victorious, with Els having four wins on both the European and PGA tours in each of the years. The millennium started in a special way for the golfer as he was awarded a unique honour by the European Tour’s Board of Directors due to his two US Open and three World Match Play titles: life membership of the European Tour. But 2000 did not continue to give him the successes that he had achieved in previous years, but rather was his year of “running-up” which he did in three of the four major championships: the Masters, US Open and The Open Championship. He also only managed to reach second place in all seven of the international tournaments which he entered that year. This performance continued into 2001 with Els missing out on winning the US PGA Tour for the first time since 1994. The results in the last two years made Els step up his game though, with 2002 being regarded as one of the greatest years of his career. It started with him winning the Heineken Classic, leading on to him taking the Genuity Championship title from the current world number one, Tiger Woods. Later in the year Els took his first ever Claret Jug home from The Open Championship, and then followed this with winning his fourth World Match Play Championship. The subsequent year he defended this title again, making this a record tying fifth time.

Again 2004 was an incredibly successful year. Els won six times on both of his tours, including his sixth World Match Play Championship (creating a new record) and the WGC-American Express Championship. The Majors were not good tournaments for him though this year, and he ended up finishing only fourth on the PGA Championship, although he managed to finish second on the European Order of Merit Title. An injury whilst sailing in 2005, meant that Els missed out on months of practice and play in 2005, but when he did return to the game he managed to win the second tournament he entered, the Dunhill Championship. Els spent most of 2006 trying to regain the time that he had lost the previous year, and came back in flying form in 2007, missing out to the Masters Tournament Championship by only two strokes. He also managed to end tour-leading consecutive cut streaks on both of his major tours, the PGA and the European Tours.

Away From The Course

Golf Courses
As well as being a highly successful golf player Els has turned his hand to many other forms of business away from his play. These include designing golf courses, of which three are now complete: the Mission Hills Golf Club in China, the wonderfully named Whiskey Creek Course in Maryland, USA and the Oubaai Course in South Africa. Three more are still under construction: the Hoakalei Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Dunes in Dubai and the Gardener Ross Golf and Country Estate in South Africa. Els also contributed to the refinement and modernisation of the West Course in Wentworth, Virginia Water, England.

In 1999 Els went into business with his friend Jean Engelbrecht to form Ernie Els Wine. Engelbrecht already had professional knowledge of Els’ passion for wine, so the two made a great partnership. Els’ reputation around the world was an invaluable tool for helping to promote the new business, employing marketing strategies such as the synergy drawn between Els’ classic golf swing and making the classic blend of wine. The pair wanted to produce fine wines and started on a small scale, buying a 72-hectare farm near the Helderberg Mountain. December 15th 2004 marked the opening day of the Ernie Els Winery, whose classic blends include all five of the Bordeaux varieties. Ernie Els wines are available all across the world, with Seckford Agencies Ltd being the supplier for England. Details about how to buy this wine are available from their website.

The Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation was established in 1999 with the intention of helping those who show promise on the golf course yet do not have funds to allow them to be able to take this any further. Educational assistance is given to these people, as well as giving somewhere for them to practice and play. More details about this are available from the Ernie Els Website.

Recently Els has decided to produce a clothing line that will manufacture an exclusive, high quality line of products that bear his name. Initially products such as wallets, passport holders, overnight bags and other such items will be produced. If and when demand increases, further products will be added to this.