It was tough watching Ernie Ells standing over shaky putts yesterday, particularly the short one on 18 that kept him out of the 4-man playoff.
The Big Easy has had a rough time on the greens recently and I was hoping to see him win yesterday, so he wouldn’t need a special invitation to The Masters.
Ernie was a shoe-in for the World Golf Hall of Fame and has been a great friend of golf for over 20 years.
Not only was the long, slow swing that gave him the name “The Big Easy” fun to watch, and still is. But, his contribution to golf also includes 3 Majors, 2 US Opens and an Open Championship.
18 PGA Tour Wins and 64 worldwide professional wins makes him one of the most prolific South African golfers in history, overshadowed only by the Black Knight himself, Gary Player.
Ernie Els should get a special exemption for an even more important reason.
Ernie runs a foundation called the Ernie Els and Fancourt Golf Foundation.
This is a program for young players who show talent at an early age, most of them are underprivileged kids from the African Continent.
If you’re not aware, two notable young players who came up through that program just happen to hold a couple prestigious titles. Louis Oosthuizen, the Open Championship and Charl Scwartzl, The Masters.
Would these two talented players have somehow made it out of Africa without the support? Who knows, but, nobody can argue that this type of program has shown time and time again to be the difference maker.
The fact is, this type of junior golf program develops people each and every day, all over the world.
I didn’t say golfers, I said people.
Golf is a development sport, there’s no team to rely on, there’s no way to master the game, it requires dedication, work ethic and developmental thought process.
Teaching these core attributes to children at an early age is vital in general, not to mention to the future of the game.
Ernie Els’ personal contribution in terms of success will be remembered for years (hopefully there are a couple more chapters to write), but his contribution to youth will live on for decades and probably centuries to come.
Those two trophies Oosthuizen’s Claret Jug and Schartzl’s Green Jacket, only represent a small slice of the Els’ legacy.
Hopefully this is a no-brainer for the boys in Augusta over the next couple days.
They don’t like being forced to do anything, they’re tough and they have a rich heritage to protect. I’m not suggesting they should let every past superstar into the most prestigious of all events, but we do have a couple big ones we owe to The Big Easy.
Bobby Jones’ was very clear that he wanted the Masters to be an event that was highly inclusive to players with Amateur Status, it’s hard to argue that anyone has had more of a contribution to Worldwide Junior Golf than Ernie Els.
I hope the Masters powers that be, get that letter out the door, sooner than later.
Don’t forget to jump over to the First Tee’s info page about their push to help 10,000,000 young golfers be better people. If you’re in position to, make a small donation, I did and you should to.