Ernie Els

From Academic Kids

Theodore Ernest (Ernie) Els (born October 17, 1969) is a South African golfer who has been one of the top professional players in the world since the mid-1990s. He is known as "The Big Easy" for his fluid, seemingly effortless golf swing.


Early life

Els was born in Johannesburg. Growing up in South Africa, he played rugby, cricket, tennis, and, starting at age 9, golf. He was a skilled junior tennis player and won the Eastern Transvaal Junior Championships at age 13. But by age 14 he decided to focus only on golf.

Els first achieved prominence in 1984, when he won the Junior World Golf Championship in the Boys 13-14 category. (The Boys 9-10 category that year was won by Tiger Woods.)

Professional career

Els turned professional at the end of 1989, and won his first professional tournament in 1991 on the Southern Africa Tour (today the Sunshine Tour).

Among his numerous victories since are three majors. He won the US Open in 1994 and in 1997, and topped it with the British Open in 2002.

Other highlights in Ernie's career include topping the 2003 and 2004 PGA European Tour Order of Merit (money list) and winning the World Matchplay Championship a record six times. He has led the official world golf rankings and is consistently ranked in the top five.

Els topped the PGA European Tour order of merit in 2003 and 2004, in which year he was voted 37th in the Top 100 Great South Africans ( see List of South Africans).

Unlike most of his contemporaries, Els is known for his willingness to participate in tournaments all around the world (he regularly plays in European Tour sanctioned events in Asia, Australasia and his native South Africa). He says his travel schedule is in recognition of the global nature of golf, but it has caused some friction with the PGA TOUR, who would prefer him to play more tournaments in the USA. In late 2004 the director of the PGA Tour wrote to him to ask him to do so in quite firm language, but Els publicised and rejected this request. The PGA Tour's attitude caused considerable offence in the golfing world outside of North America.

When not playing, Els has a golf course design business, a charitable foundation which supports golf among underprivileged youngsters in South Africa, and a highly-regarded wine-making business.

Major championships

Tournament 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Masters Tournament DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T8 CUT T12 T17 T16 T27
British Open CUT DNP DNP T5 T6 T24 T11 T2 T10 T29 T24
PGA Championship DNP DNP DNP CUT CUT T25 T3 T61 T53 T21 CUT
Tournament 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Masters Tournament 2 T6 T5 T6 2 47
U.S. Open T2 T66 T24 T5 T9 T15
British Open T2 T3 1 T18 2
PGA Championship T34 T13 T34 T5 T4

DNP = did not play
CUT = missed the half way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place.

PGA TOUR career summary

YearMajorsOther winsPGA TOUR winsEarnings ($)Rank

These figures are from the PGA Tour's official site. As Els divides his time roughly equally between the PGA Tour and the PGA European Tour, his ranking on the PGA Tour money list understates his standing within the global game. From the mid 1990s to early 2005, he has rarely been out of the top three in the Official World Golf Rankings.

PGA Tour wins

1994 U.S. Open
1995 GTE Byron Nelson Golf Classic
1996 Buick Classic
1997 U.S. Open, Buick Classic
1998 Bay Hill Invitational
1999 Nissan Open
2000 The International
2002 Genuity Championship, The Open Championship
2003 Mercedes Championships, Sony Open in Hawaii
2004 Sony Open in Hawaii, Memorial Tournament, WGC-American Express Championship.

Major championship victories are shown in bold.

PGA European Tour wins

See here ( for a summary of Els' PGA European Tour career.


1994 Dubai Desert Classic
1995 Lexington South African PGA
1997 Johnnie Walker Classic
1998 South African Open
1999 Alfred Dunhill South African PGA
2000 Standard Life Loch Lomond
2002 Heineken Classic, Dubai Desert Classic, 131st Open Championship
2003 Heineken Classic, Johnnie Walker Classic, Barclays Scottish Open, Omega European Masters, HSBC World Matchplay Championship.
2004 Heineken Classic, HSBC World Matchplay Championship
2005 Dubai Desert Classic, Qatar Masters, BMW Asian Open

Other wins

1989 South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship
1991 Amatola Sun Classic
1992 Protea Assurance South African Open, Lexington South African PGA Championship, South African Masters, Hollard Royal Swazi Sun Classic, First National Bank Players Championship, Goodyear Classic.
1993 Dunlop Phoenix (Japan Golf Tour)
1994 Toyota World Match Play Championship
1995 Toyota World Match Play Championship, Bells Cup
1996 Toyota World Match Play Championship, Philips South African Open
1997 PGA Grand Slam of Golf
1999 Nedbank Million Dollar Challenge
2000 Nedbank Golf Challenge
2001 Vodacom Players Championship
2002 Nedbank Golf Challenge, Cisco World Match Play Championship

Most of the wins up to 1992 were Sunshine Tour events. Most of those from 1994 onwards are in unofficial events.


Alfred Dunhill Cup
1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 (winners), 1998 (winners), 1999, 2000

World Cup
1992, 1993, 1996 (Individual and team winners), 1997, 2001 (winners)

Presidents Cup
1996, 1998 (Winners), 2000, 2003 (Draw)

Ernie Els Design Golf Courses

Mission Hills Golf Club, The Savannah Course - Shenzhen, China
Whiskey Creek - Ijamsville, Maryland, USA

See also


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