I am not a golfer. I hit a bucket of balls maybe once a year at the local SkyDrive because I want to see how far I can hit the little white ball, or if I take the kids there for mini golf. But I am a father of an autistic child, and like any other parent on the Spectrum, when ‘one of us’ does something well, it is good for the entire Autism community. I also commend athletes and entertainers who are parents on the Spectrum for their charitable foundations, like the Els for Autism Foundation, the HollyRod Foundation, or the Dan Marino Foundation, and others, because I feel that those with the wherewithall to do more for others should, and should be recognized for those efforts. The more these stars succeed, the higher the level of Autism Awareness is raised; in the end, it may be my child who may somehow benefit from their successes. Congratulations Ernie Els! Keep up the good work! And that other side thing that you’re pretty good at (golf). -Ed
Ernie Els has revealed how his autistic son Ben was the inspiration behind one of the greatest comebacks in Open Championship history.
Els had to call on all his immense talent at Royal Lytham and St Annes to fight from six shots down at the turn in yesterday’s final round and card a back nine in four under par that proved just good enough to beat an imploding Adam Scott by one shot.
But always in the back of the South African’s mind was the thought that nine-year-old Ben was glued to the drama unfolding on television back home at Wentworth in Surrey. Els, who was celebrating his fourth Major victory 18 years after he claimed his first, said: “I made a lot of putts with Ben in mind because I knew he was watching.
“He loves it when I hit golf balls. He loves the flight of the ball and the sound. He gets really excited and I wanted to keep him excited, so I made a lot of putts for him.”
Els revealed his son’s condition in 2008 and he and his wife, Liezl, now divide their time between their home in England and another in West Palm Beach in Florida where they have become dedicated to raising awareness of autism and money for research into the disability.
The 42-year-old admitted that setting up the Els for Autism Foundation had been a distraction but he added: “I think I’ve now got to a point where I can definitely separate my private and charity life from my golf life.
“Emotionally and mentally I’m in a better place.”
As Els slumped as low as 65th in the rankings many observers within golf wrote him off as a major force. But his caddie, Ricci Roberts, insists a second Open to add to Els’s two US Open titles will not be the end of the story.
Roberts, who guided Els to a final round 68 for a seven-under-par total of 273, said: “Ernie really worked hard for this. He put in all the hours, all the time, all the effort which other people don’t see, and I’m so happy for him because he truly deserved it.
“And I still think he has got three or four Majors left in him.
“He has had a big mountain in front of him and he’s started to climb it now.”
South African golf legend Gary Player had little sympathy for Scott, the 32-year-old Australian who looked set for a maiden Major triumph as he led by four shots with four holes to play. Crucially, the fourth of four successive bogeys was the result of Scott choosing to start the 18th with a three wood.
With Els having birdied the last to pile the pressure on, Scott found a fairway bunker from off the tee and was unable to get up and down to force a play-off. Player, who won the third of his three Opens at Lytham in 1974, said: “I knew six holes from the end that Ernie was going to win. He was holing these putts and I said there will be a tremendous amount of pressure on Adam Scott.
“Ernie did the right thing at 18. He took the driver and let her rip. Adam did the wrong thing. He either had to take a driver or he had to take a two iron. He just made the gravest mistake of his career taking a three wood.”
Scott refused to make excuses for his meltdown and said: “I can’t justify anything that I’ve done out there. I know I’ve let a really great chance slip through my fingers. It was a very sloppy finish by me and disappointing to finish that way.”
The fact that Els still spends some of his time in England is scant consolation for home supporters who began the week with high hopes of celebrating a first English winner of an Open staged in England since Tony Jacklin’s triumph at Lytham back in 1969.
A share of fifth place with Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell keeps Luke Donald on top of the world rankings and he now heads to the final Major of the season, the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in three weeks’ time, insisting: “I’ll take a lot of positives away from Lytham. I leave knowing that my game is definitely good enough to win Majors.”
Ian Poulter, tied for ninth, and Lee Westwood, tied for 45th, undoubtedly “know” the same. The frustration is that they have said it all before. The difference is that Els has turned talk into titles.