Ernie Els has spoken of his excitement about the South African stars who have responded to the apparent ‘Boys are Back’ theme of the 107th playing of the South African Open, which he has won five times.
This week’s field at Glendower CC includes four of South Africa’s Major winners in Els, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, and Charl Schwartzel, who each have their own storied history with the SA Open.
At the same time, the likes of Branden Grace, 2016 champion Brandon Stone, Dylan Frittelli, Dean Burmester, Haydn Porteous, George Coetzee, Thomas Aiken, and Erik van Rooyen will be looking to show the fans that the ‘new brigade’ can play too.
“We have a great field this week. I’m excited to see a lot of the South Africans here. There are so many of them knocking on the door of doing great things,” Els said in a statement.
“There are young players here on the brink of becoming great players, and winning the BMW SA Open could be a really great stepping stone for them.”
That being said, the 48-year-old is as excited about the prospect of ‘bringing back some of the old magic’ when it comes to his own game this week in the City of Ekurhuleni.
He added: “Last year was a funny year with my daughter Samantha going to college and a couple of injuries that I had. But I feel healthy and I want to play some golf, especially in front of my home crowd.
“I’ve also got some new equipment I’m working with. Hopefully I can get some of the old magic back and have a good week.”
From his first South African Open title as a 22-year-old in 1992 to his last in 2010 (the 100th edition), Els has special affection for his home Open, saying: “I’m fortunate to have won this five times and it’s been amazing every single time.
“I have so many great memories of this tournament, including playing with some of the greatest golfers in the game. It’s good to be here as a 48-year-old and still competing in my national Open.”
Els’s five wins places him joint-fifth on the all-time list behind fellow South African Gary Player (13), Bobby Locke (9) and Sid Brews (8), and level with Scottish player George Fotheringham.
Giving back to his community is a major priority for the veteran this week, through his Els for Autism organisation, which is in focus because his son Ben (15) lives with the disorder.
The Big Easy said: “We are doing a lot of work in the US and South Africa, and all of the proceeds from this week’s tournament go towards Els for Autism. It’s a wonderful way to give back. We’re helping a lot of kids and are moving forward with some exciting things.”