Editor's note: Ernie Els is writing a blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2013 and this is his latest installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.
Having suffered from some pain and spasms in my right hip during the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral, it was a case of just taking it easy last week and getting some treatment to try to get this sorted. The good news is it feels a bit better and that means I can tee it up this week at Bay Hill.
It’s always great to play in Arnold’s tournament and to win it is obviously very special. The guy is such a legend and has done so much for the game of golf. He really helped me a bit at the start of my career as well, inviting me here for the first time way back in 1993, when I actually played with him the first couple of rounds. Arnold made the cut that year and I didn’t! Anyway, I’ve won here since then – in 1998 and 2010 – so there are enough good vibes in the memory bank that I always come in to this tournament with a lot of optimism.
This is a tough golf course, though. It’s a long track, so you’re often hitting a lot of club into very firm greens and with plenty of water about. Every year you see that scoring is tough, even from the guys at the top of the leaderboard, and small mistakes can cost you shots. I’m looking forward to it, though, especially after last year when it was all a bit strange with me trying to secure a last-minute place in the Masters. None of that stuff to worry about this year, I’m relieved to say.
Okay, so before we sign off I just want to briefly look back again to Doral week when, as many of you will recall, we held a joint press conference with Mr. Donald Trump to make some announcements about Els for Autism. Forgive me but we want to leave this information up on the website for another week, just to make sure the message reaches as many people as possible.
To start things off we launched this year’s Els for Autism Golf Challenge. There is plenty of information on our homepage right now, so we don’t need to go into detail here, but suffice to say we owe considerable thanks to Mr. Trump for his support. Six of our 22 regional qualifiers are being hosted at Trump courses, which is a huge boost to our fundraising campaign. They are fine golf courses and Mr. Trump is generously giving us a break on the rent, which saves us a lot of money in fees that we would otherwise have had to pay to other golf clubs. We’d spoken in the past about this and Mr. Trump always said he would help us. He’s truly a man of his word.
Of course, that means more cash goes directly towards funding the proposed Els for Autism Center of Excellence, which is moving ever closer to becoming a reality. We’ve raised a lot of money already and with the help of Mr. Trump and our sponsors and all the people who take part in these events, we’re going to get this thing done. It is going to be an amazing 30,000-square foot facility, which will be the first of its kind in the world. These are special kids and they need some really special help, and that’s what this Center is all about.
For the past few years we started the ball rolling on our fundraising campaign with the now traditional Els for Autism Pro-Am held at PGA National, which took place last Monday and as always was organized by a good friend of mine Marvin Shanken, the publisher of Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado.
This was our fifth pro-am and the day was a huge success thanks to the support of sponsors, amateurs, celebrities and some of my fellow TOUR pros including Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood, Keegan Bradley, Raymond Floyd, Bo Van Pelt and many more. Together we raised almost $900,000. That’s incredible. Seriously guys, we really appreciate your support.
For more information and to find out how you can take part in this year’s Els for Autism Golf Challenge, please visit the website: www.e4agolf.com.
Again, thanks so much for your support.