Els blog: Fowler's ace at Autism Pro-Am
March 10, 2016
By Ernie Els, Special to PGATOUR.COM
- March 10, 2016
- Rickie Fowler's hole-in-one earned $1 million for Els for Autism. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
Apologies for the slightly delayed post this week. It’s been an incredible 24 hours, as you may have seen on this website and indeed right across the world of sports’ social media.
The Eighth Annual Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado Els for Autism Pro-Am was played on Monday, March 7, at Old Palm Golf Club, and is always a special occasion; actually it’s one of my favorite days of the entire year. This year’s Pro-Am was something really incredible, though, with Rickie Fowler holing a wedge shot in the traditional Hole-In-One Challenge sponsored by SAP and Ketel One Vodka, to win a $1 million charitable donation for Els for Autism. It was an amazing moment and I still almost can’t believe it actually happened. It’s since gone viral on the internet….the shot heard around the world! Rickie has been a good buddy of mine for a while and is so supportive of our charity, but he is definitely my hero now!
As in previous years, we were also blessed with the support of 20 other TOUR players and naturally they deserve a big shout-out here, too. Thank you to Adam Scott (fresh from his back-to-back wins in The Honda Classic and World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship), Brooks Koepka, Camilo Villegas, Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Greg Chalmers, Jack Nicklaus, Keegan Bradley, K.J. Choi, Louis Oosthuizen, Luke Donald, Nick Price, Retief Goosen, Rich Beem, Rory McIlroy, Rory Sabbatini, Thomas Aiken, Tony Finau and Vijay Singh. Between us we could claim a total of 39 major wins, which is really something, and many of the guys have played in this event multiple times over the years. Their continued support is genuinely humbling and means a lot to Liezl and me.
Thank you also to our hosts at Old Palm Golf Club, to our partners, our sponsors and in particular to Marvin R. Shanken of Cigar Aficionado and Wine Spectator magazines. He was the inspiration behind this event and remains one of its driving forces. Our Pro-Am family has now raised almost $9 million since the event’s inception in 2009, money that is already working hard making a positive difference to the lives of individuals and families on the spectrum. This week we also had the opportunity to show the amateurs, most of whom have played every year, around the Center of Excellence and I hope they were impressed that their donations have been put to a great cause. You can read more about our work and the ground-breaking initiatives we’ve introduced at the Center by visiting the website: www.elsforautism.com.
It was quite a night at Old Palm on Monday, but we were then up and about pretty early the next morning to attend an RBC outing at the beautiful Breakers Rees Jones course here in West Palm Beach. I was in the company of fellow RBC golfing ambassadors Graeme McDowell, Mike Weir and Graham DeLaet, and we all had a really fun day. Thanks again to everyone involved for the superb hospitality.
So it’s only just about now that I’ve had a spare moment to sit down and post this week’s report and tell you about the upcoming Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor. As well as being a great tournament sponsor, I’m happy to also report that Valspar was generous enough to come forward and provide all the paint for our Center of Excellence, which is a very significant donation.
Anyway, this is the third stop on the season’s Florida Swing…the fourth if you include our Els for Autism Pro-Am! I’ve played this event several times over the years and had a couple of top-10s, most recently in 2012 when this was the Transitions Championship and I was just one shot out of a playoff. Although I’ve got nothing to show from the last couple of years, this is a golf course that I do enjoy and I’ve played plenty of nice rounds here. With the way my game has been showing these past 4-5 weeks I feel very motivated to get some good results. It’s hard to beat the buzz of being in the mix on a Sunday afternoon, although seeing Rickie make that hole-in-one on Monday could be right up there!
Straight after this week’s Valspar Championship I’ll be teeing it up in Arnold Palmer’s tournament at Bay Hill the following week, so it’s a really nice two weeks of tournament golf to look forward to before we then get into our Masters build-up.
Okay, that’s about it for now. Just a quick final mention for the Emirates Lions rugby team and their wonderful new initiative to help raise awareness and funds for Els for Autism. The players are sporting the blue-and-white autism awareness colors in the numbers on the back of their shirts for every fixture during this year’s Super Rugby competition. As many people will know, I’ve been a proud supporter of the Lions since I was a kid. Thanks guys for your support and congrats on a great win against the Chiefs on New Zealand turf last weekend. What an incredible match. We won’t forget that one in a hurry. Obviously good luck for the rest of the season.
Follow me on Twitter @TheBig_Easy.
Rickie Fowler's $1 million ace at Els For Autism event