Ernie Els is back.
If a young golf fan had never heard of The Big Easy before he became the 2012 British Open winner, it would be understandable. Els hadn’t won a PGA Tour major in the last 10 years.
According to Official World Golf Rank, the former World No. 1 entered the week ranked No. 40. Despite his strong showing in the U.S. Open, the odds were against Els to contend again, let alone win at Royal Lytham & St Annes. At 42 years old, though, he pulled it off.
Here is everything you need to know about Els.
Els grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa.
He was a multi-sport stud as a teenager. Besides golf, his best sport was tennis. And who knows, if Els hadn’t grown to be 6’3”, 210 pounds, maybe he could have had a career in it.
Today, he lives with his family, which includes his wife Liezl and kids Samantha and Ben, in three different locations: Wentworth, England; George, South Africa; and Jupiter, Florida (via PGATour.com).
As previously mentioned, Els was at one time the best golfer on the planet.
He won 19 PGA Tour events over the course of his career—all but four of them coming from 1994, when he became a pro, to 2004. His first career victory came in dramatic fashion, as he defeated Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts in the 1994 U.S. Open playoff.
When he won the 141st Open Championship on Sunday, it was Els’ fourth major triumph of his career. His other two came in the 1997 U.S. Open and the 2002 British Open.
Most household names in the PGA Tour don’t bother to regularly play in other tournaments around the globe. Els chose to deviate from the norm.
On top of his 19 PGA Tour victories, he has won 26 on the European Tour—seventh most all-time—16 on the Sunshine Tour, one on the Japan Golf Tour and 14 others in various events.
For his dominance not only in the PGA Tour, but internationally, Els was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Els loves to win tournaments. Who doesn’t? But he also wants you to win.
The Big Easy is a contributor to Golf Digest and has published 19 instructional columns to help readers with their golf games.
In his latest article, which was released in February, Els stresses confidence, writing (via Golf Digest):
Before you take your address, while you're still reading the putt, imagine the ball tracking on the line you've chosen and falling into the cup. If you don't believe you can make every putt, why bother trying?
It looks like Els took his own advice this past weekend.
Els’ win in the British Open isn’t only a feel-good story because he won it at 42 years old. The volunteer work he does off the golf course makes him as easy to root for as anyone.
Back in 1999, he created The Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation. The organization provides South African children from tough backgrounds opportunities to shine on the golf course.
He also annually raises money for autistic children by hosting the Els for Autism Pro-Am. His son was diagnosed with the disorder and since then, Els has raised millions of dollars to help those with the same condition.
It’s great to have Els and his generosity back in the spotlight.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.