Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Three time Major Champion Ernie Els took his place among the golfing greats at the World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum at an induction ceremony at the World Golf Village in St Augustine, Florida on Monday.
Els, an Honorary Member of The European Tour, was inducted along with Frank Chirkinian, Doug Ford, the late Jock Hutchison, Jumbo Ozaki and former US President George H. W. Bush in the class of 2011.
The ceremony was all the more poignant following the death of fellow Hall of Famer, Seve Ballesteros, on Saturday. Simple black ribbons were attached to his locker and plaque while the Spanish flag flew at half-mast.
Els, pictured, who won the US Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open Championship in 2002 among 26 European Tour titles and a further 40 worldwide, was introduced by Sunshine Tour Chairman Johan Rupert.
The ‘Big Easy’ will tee up on Thursday in the opening round of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass as the latest member of an exclusive club.
"It’ll be a very special feeling to step on the first tee knowing you’ve made the Hall of Fame," Els said. "I’m still trying to win golf tournaments, still trying to win major championships, and I think it’s a huge bonus for anybody’s career."
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, speaking as Chairman of the World Golf Foundation, said: “I can think of no more worthy candidate than Ernie to enter the World Golf Hall of Fame.
“He joins two South African legends of the game in Bobby Locke and Gary Player, which is testament to his immense ability, his superb achievements and the wonderful example he has set to all in the field of golf and, indeed, the world of sport.”
On the announcement last year that he was to be inducted, Golf legend and Hall of Fame Global Ambassador Gary Player said of his compatriot: “I was so pleased to hear the news that my fellow South African Ernie Els has been selected to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Ernie certainly deserves this recognition, as he epitomises a “world” golfer. He is a credit to the game and an ambassador for the sport. Ernie has been a wonderful friend over the years and I am very fond of him and his family.”
"It's been a long journey coming from South Africa," Els said at the two-hour ceremony.
Els is heavily involved in research and finding a cure for autism. His eight year old son, Ben, is autistic, and the boy was escorted into the room as a video of Els' career was being played, his eyes fixated on the screen. Els later spoke of the joy he feels having his son sit on the range with him as he hits balls.
"He'll sit there and watch the ball take off in the blue sky," Els said.
Els was elected on the US PGA Tour ballot. Japanese icon Jumbo Ozaki, who won more than 100 tournaments, was voted into the Hall of Fame on the International ballot.
Doug Ford and the late Jock Hutchison, both two-time major champions, were selected through the Veterans category.
Former President George H.W. Bush and the late Frank Chirkinian, the television golf producer for CBS Sports, were selected through the Lifetime Achievement category.
Their induction brought membership in the Hall of Fame to 136. You have to be 40 to be considered for the Hall of Fame and Els was voted in at the first opportunity.



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