Major winners Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen were named Honorary Members of the PGA of South Africa (PGA of SA) on Sunday.
The duo was presented with a letter from the Chairman of the PGA, Paul Marks and Honorary Member player badges by PGA of SA chief executive Ivano Ficalbi during the final round of the European Tour’s Volvo Golf Champions at Durban Country Club.
Ficalbi said the PGA of SA is proud to acknowledge Els and Oosthuizen for their achievements, their service to the game of golf and their ambassadorship of South Africa.
“The PGA of SA honours those professional golfers who have achieved extraordinary heights in golf, like winning a Major or a World Cup of Golf, with Honorary Membership,” Ficalbi explained.
“Ernie was first presented with Honorary Membership when he won the World Cup of Golf with Wayne Westner in 1996, but the Board unanimously agreed that we should honour Ernie again after his fourth Major victory at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes last year.
“Louis won the 2010 Open Championship with a runaway victory at St Andrews and came agonisingly close at the Masters last year. Both players are also heavily invested in the future of South African golf – Ernie through the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation and Louis with his golf academy in MosselBay.
“The PGA of South Africa believes that it is critical for our up-and-coming stars to have their own heroes. As young golfers, Louis, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace looked up to Ernie for inspiration and it’s wonderful to see how, in turn, they have become the inspiration for the younger generation. Both Ernie and Louis are doing an incredible job in making sure that South Africa will remain a strong contender on the world stage for years to come.”
Els, the owner of 65 international career victories, was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2010. He won the US Open in 1994 and 1997 and the Open Championship in 2002, a feat he repeated in 2012 at the age of 42.
“This means so much to me because South Africa was where it all started, it was my stepping stone,” said Els. “Winning here in South Africa opened a lot of doors for me. The support of the fans over the years has been incredible. I’m proud to be honoured in this way, and it’s nice to know I will always have somewhere to play when I retire one day.”
Oosthuizen, who has claimed nine of his 11 career victories in South Africa, was equally thrilled.
“This was a big surprise and I feel very honoured,” he said. “It’s really great to see how heavily the PGA of SA is invested in professional golf and that they are also looking after us. This is such a big honour; to have this award is really special.”
The pair join an illustrious list of South African golfers who have already received Honorary Membership of the PGA of SA, including Grand Slam champion and nine-time Major winner Gary Player, World Cup of Golf winners Westner and Rory Sabbatini (2003), and Major champions Retief Goosen (US Open Championship in 2001 and 2004) and Trevor Immelman, who won the Masters in 2008 and partnered Sabbatini in South Africa’s 2003 World Cup victory.
“Our other Honorary Members have ensured that South Africa has gained a reputation as a breeding ground for some of the greatest talent in world golf. We are immensely proud to reward Ernie and Louis with this honour.”
PGA of South Africa www.pga.co.za