By Ernie Els, Asian Tour International Ambassador and Honorary Member
It feels like it’s been a while since my last blog for the Asian Tour and obviously we’re now into the meat of the golf season, with the first Major Championship done and dusted. What a win for Sergio Garcia!
To accomplish what he did, the way he did, and to do it on what would have been Seve Ballesteros’ 60th birthday…well, that’s quite the fairytale story. Sergio deserves this and I was pleased for him.
For me personally, it was a week of mixed emotions. My five-year exemption for winning the 2012 Open Championship runs out this summer, so we went to Augusta National knowing it could potentially be my last ever trip down Magnolia Lane. Even though I wasn’t in contention, it was a special few days.
“I see also that the Asian Tour is starting to make great inroads back into China with the signing a few months ago of a new Strategic Partnership with the China Golf Association. Through various initiatives and new co-sanctioned events, this deal is going to provide young talent with additional playing opportunities and pathways to greater success. We all applaud that.” – Ernie Els
The weather at the weekend was beautiful, the fans were amazing, and it was lovely to have my family and a lot of close friends with me every step of the way. I really tried to savour the moment and to look around a bit and enjoy the experience. Augusta National is a magical place and I’ve been lucky enough to play this wonderful tournament 23 times. Maybe we’ll get back there again for another go. But if not, it’s fine. I’ve had a great run and a great time. No complaints.
As for the season so far…well, the best way to sum-up is to say that my results haven’t been a fair reflection of the state of my game. I’ve actually been hitting it nicely. But this is golf! The important thing is to keep working hard and try to focus on turning things around. As always there’s lots of great golf to look forward to this summer, including a first ever trip to Erin Hills, a rolling, prairie-style layout northwest of Milwaukee, for the US Open.
That’s followed by a return visit to an absolute classic, Royal Birkdale, for the Open Championship. I’ll then be playing my 100th career Major at the PGA Championship at beautiful Quail Hollow in Charlotte, NC.
Also, we’re excited that a visit to Asia in October is going to figure in my 2017 plans. Obviously, as an international ambassador for the Asian Tour, I’m always taking a keen interest in developments there. It’s good to see the Thailand Open back on the schedule this week, for the first time in eight years. I’ve got some wonderful memories of playing tournaments in that beautiful country.
I see also that the Asian Tour is starting to make great inroads back into China with the signing a few months ago of a new Strategic Partnership with the China Golf Association. Through various initiatives and new co-sanctioned events, this deal is going to provide young talent with additional playing opportunities and pathways to greater success. We all applaud that. It will also no doubt help further grow the game in this exciting part of the world. Both parties benefit, as is the case with the best partnerships.
Great partnerships are at the heart of our ethos at Ernie Els Design and just recently we’ve had the official opening of our first ever Els Performance Golf Academy, located in Hanoi, Vietnam. It’s already been announced as the home of the Vietnam National Golf Team and only last month it hosted a successful summit in association with the Asian Golf Industry Federation. We’re really excited about the facility that we’ve created there, with our partners at Ecopark and Troon, and it’s wonderful that we’re able to demonstrate through events such as that our passion for growing golf in the region and introducing new people to the game. The guys are doing a wonderful job there.
“It’s good to see the Thailand Open back on the schedule this week, for the first time in eight years. I’ve got some wonderful memories of playing tournaments in that beautiful country.” – Ernie Els
We’ve also celebrated the official opening of the Valley Course at The Els Club Desaru Coast, Malaysia, another partnership, this time between myself and my old sparring partner Vijay Singh. We had some great battles on the golf course, but here we’re united in our shared passion for a wonderful project. We’re thrilled with the results. It lies adjacent to the existing Ocean Course, which we opened last year, and has been crafted around a series of undulations, providing impressive vistas around the Desaru Coast. Strong bunkering is a major factor, placing the onus on a well-planned course strategy.
This is another major step forward in realising the vision of Desaru Coast and brings the total number of holes on offer under the umbrella of our Els Club Malaysia brand to 72. That’s 18 at The Els Club Teluk Datai and 45 (27-hole Ocean Course & 18-hole Valley Course) at The Els Club Desaru Coast, plus another 9 holes at the site’s Els Performance Golf Academy, our second such facility.
To have The Els Club brand as the first in a long-line of major developments at this special destination is a real privilege. This is now a special destination for golf, one that we feel will boost tourism and attract golf aficionados from around the world, while also hopefully inspiring others to get involved in golf.