ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida (AP) ― Ernie Els followed the trail of South African idol Gary Player by winning golf tournaments all over the world, a journey that took him all the way to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Els, a three-time major champion and the ultimate global player of his generation, was among six people inducted Monday night at the World Golf Village. Known as the “Big Easy” for his languid swing and soothing smile, Els won 62 times around the world, including the U.S. Open twice and a British Open at Muirfield.
Ernie Els poses for photos after being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. (AFP-Yonhap News)
“It’s been a long journey coming from South Africa,” Els said at the two-hour ceremony.
Even as he still pursues more majors, Els is heavily involved in research and finding a cure for autism. His 8-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 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.