As Ernie Els Claims Victory at The Open, he Cites the Inspiration that Comes from the Support of the Autism Community Worldwide

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2012 Open Champion, Ernie Els announces that the 2012 Els for Autism Golf Challenge series has crested $1 million with over half of the 30 Super Regional tournaments still to play

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After two months of competition, on and off the course, the Golf Challenge, not yet at its half-way mark, has raised almost $1.2 million, and is within striking distance of being half way towards Ernie’s ambitious fundraising goal of $2.5 million for the 2012 golf series.

Spearheaded by World of Golf Hall of Famer and Open Champion Ernie Els, the Els for Autism Golf Challenge has become the largest amateur, charity-driven golf tournament in history, consisting of 30 tournaments across the US, Canada and the UK with a Grand Finale hosted by Ernie in Las Vegas in October.

So far over 1,100 players have signed up to the Challenge and over 2,600 donors have pledged funds in a fundraising effort that, Ernie highlighted was one of the ‘inspirations’, behind his success in The Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes over the weekend.

As the current highest fundraising team from across the Els for Autism Golf Challenge tees off today on the first hole at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey, other golfers were showing their support by playing 450 miles away on the Old White TPC course at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.

Baltusrol Golf Club host, John McGuire, of Goldman Sachs, joined players including many from Presenting Sponsor, SAP, to lead the fundraising charge for the amateur event series – earning nearly $200,000 in one day; so far a record-breaking total for the event series.

McGuire commented: “Goldman Sachs was honored to have had the opportunity to support the Els for Autism Golf Challenge and to be a part of helping Ernie achieve his goal to help kids and young adults on the autism spectrum receive the best treatment possible. Raising over $60,000 from friends and colleagues was very special to me. I played to honor all military families who face the challenges of autism like my nephew, Payton, who is an inspiration to our family as he continues to progress while his father is often deployed due to his military duties.“

In this golf tournament a team’s fundraising skill is valued as much as their performance on the course and as such, the low net winning team from each of the 30 events AND all teams that raise $10,000 or more by September 26th will be invited to join Ernie Els for the Finale at Caesar’s Palace in October 2012. Fans can also raise funds and attend the Las Vegas event without playing golf by joining the Gallery Club. All the groups have the opportunity to win one of the fabulous trips and prizes from partners Mantis and Irish Links.

Ernie Els, whose 9-year old son Ben is severely touched by autism, and who set up the Els for Autism Foundation in 2009 with his wife Liezl, commented on how touched he has been by the support the Foundation has received through the Golf Challenge.

Els said: “Autism is a cause extremely close to my heart and Liezl and I have been humbled by the support that the golfing community has given to the cause through their embrace of the Golf Challenge, not just by the players, but by all the donors that have pledged funds.”

Els added: “The Grand Finale was a great opportunity for myself and Liezl to meet and personally thank so many of the people that helped make the Challenge such a success last year. It was like a coming out party for the autism community; we became family in 48 hours, sharing stories of our children and celebrating a common goal to get the best possible treatment to all those on the spectrum. We look forward to seeing many of our new friends again this year in Vegas.”

The Greenbrier Resort and Baltusrol Golf Club are just two of the incredible golf courses that are hosting Golf Challenge events this year. Golf tournaments are being hosted nationwide until the end of September and golfers can register online for an event at:



Mary Kay Willson, Els for Autism
T: 561 252 6023            E: marykay.willson(at)ernieels(dot)com

About the Els for Autism Golf Challenge
The Golf Challenge, spearheaded by World of Golf Hall of Famer and current Open Champion, Ernie Els, consists of 30 Super Regional events around the country at handpicked public and private courses, from April through September, with all teams competing for a place at the Grand Finale in Las Vegas.

In this unique format, a team’s fundraising skill is valued as much as their performance on the course. Two-person teams compete in regional events and earn a place in the Grand Finale via one of two ways: by being the low net winning team at their Super Regional event or by raising $10,000 or more. Over 1,700 people took part in the 2011 Golf Challenge with a total of $1.8 million raised thanks to some 8,500 donors.

Corporate support for the Els for Autism Golf Challenge comes from Presenting Sponsor, SAP; Organizing Sponsors, Callaway, RBC, Wine Spectator; and Gallery Club Sponsor, Trumpet Behavioural Health. These companies are absolutely critical in the delivery of this innovative series of fundraising events.

The Challenge’s highly valued Contributing Sponsors include companies like Mantis, Preferred Golf, IRISH LINKS, GOLF Magazine, Links Magazine, Giltedge Travel, Caesar’s Palace Resort and Casino, The PGA TOUR, South African Airways, Expand A Sign, Ralph Lauren, Ketel One Vodka, Maverick Aviation Group, I-ONICS and Vitamin Water.

Proceeds from the Golf Challenge will go to the Els for Autism Foundation to fund a Center of Excellence. The $30 million project, the first of its kind in the world, will provide a physical and virtual hub that will reach out to the autism community across the U.S. and the world. To learn more, please visit

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Mary Kay Willson
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