Ernie Els continued his long history of giving back to the game of golf earlier this week when he captained one of three teams of local juniors in the third edition of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters Challenge Match.
Els, 46, laughed when reminded that Louis Oosthuizen – one of three captains in the Challenge Match – was the most high-profile graduate of the Ernie Els Foundation set up in South Africa in 1999.
Oosthuizen, 33, became a member in 2000 and was the Foundation’s captain in 2002, the year Els won the third of his four Majors and the first of his two Open Championship titles.
The Foundation’s stated purpose is ‘to identify talented South Africans, predominantly from families of limited resources, and provide them with educational and life-skill assistance and playing opportunities in order to produce successful, well-rounded and educated young golfers’.
Els explained: “I feel that I was very fortunate to have all the opportunities I did to play. My dad was a golfer so I’d go every weekend with him and I’d also go with my grandfather to golf courses. As time went on, I had opportunities to play overseas and so forth,” Els said.
“I just felt that a lot of players with a lot of talent were left behind in South Africa because they didn’t get the opportunity to play as juniors in academies or in tournaments, and that’s how you develop as a player.
“That’s why we started our Foundation, to help kids really reach us their potential, and I’m sure that’s what the Qatar Golf Association is doing with its junior programme.”
Els, who won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in 2005, was delighted to spend quality time with four of Qatar’s most promising youngsters on Monday and hopefully give them some inspiring memories as they develop their game.
“I remember back in the day when we were juniors and were invited to days to play with professionals,” Els said. “I’d always be nervous and looking forward to playing, seeing how a golf ball should be hit and how the game should be played. That’s why I’m always happy to give youngsters some pointers.”