Editor’s note: Ernie Els is writing a blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2012, and this is his latest installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.
I just want to start this report by thanking all of you who kindly took the time to send me birthday wishes last week. It was fun reading all of your messages. It was a nice start to a week that ended in pretty spectacular fashion in Las Vegas for this year’s Els for Autism Golf Challenge Grand Finale. We set the bar pretty high last year, but somehow I think we topped it in 2012. What a weekend!
There are obviously a lot of people to whom Liezl and I would like to express our gratitude, so please forgive me while I take a moment to give them all a well-deserved mention. We couldn’t have done this without them.
First of all a huge thank you to our organizing sponsors SAP, Callaway, RBC, Wine Spectator and Trumpet Behavioral Health. Special thanks in particular to SAP, which hosted an amazing South African braai and awards dinner, and Breitling which hosted a VIP reception for our guests. We also had the support of so many other generous sponsors, which meant our finalists had some incredible prizes to play for.
Helping make this an extra special event for our finalists was the presence of friends and fellow TOUR professionals Nick Watney, Charley Hoffman and John Mallinger, along with top coach Claude Harmon, who all gave up their time to host a clinic for our golfers on Saturday. Over the weekend we were also pleased to welcome some special guests including baseball legend – and ‘Mr October’ himself – Reggie Jackson, and former Grand Slam tennis doubles champion Justin Gimelstob. Steve Sands from the Golf Channel did a great job as MC for the night. Thanks guys.
We had three wonderful venues for our golfers to enjoy so my thanks to everyone at Rio Secco, Bear’s Best and TPC Las Vegas and also to the staff and management at Caesars Palace. You looked after us wonderfully well.
Finally, of course, thank you to all the competitors – not just those who made it to Vegas but to everyone who entered regional events and took part in the fundraising. We set out at the start of the year with a $2.5 million target, which seemed ambitious, but by the halfway mark it started to look achievable. We still need to tally things up from Vegas, but we may have hit our target. It’s a phenomenal effort and it helps bring us ever closer to the launch of the Els Center of Excellence here in Florida.
Anyway, I was scheduled to travel direct from Vegas to Bermuda for this week’s PGA Grand Slam of Golf. It would have been the fourth time I’d played in this event, but unfortunately I sprained my left ankle a few days ago and, while it isn’t too serious and it should recover relatively quickly, I have been advised not to try and play on it.
I am bitterly disappointed not to be playing the Grand Slam. Bermuda made quite an impression on me last year; it’s such a beautiful island and it really lifts your spirits. It is a great reward for winning a major and something I have enjoyed in the past and was looking forward to again. Obviously I wish my fellow competitors the very best and hope that I will manage to qualify again next year.
Now I just need to rest up this week and make sure I’m ready for next week’s World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions Tournament in China. I’m told the ankle will be fine by then.