Los Angeles - Ernie Els is staging his "Els for Autism" golf challenge again, and this time he has backing from SAP, one of his top corporate sponsors.
He describes it as the largest golf charity event in the world, a series of 30 tournaments from April through September, with the final being held October 19-20 at The Gallery Club in Las Vegas for the low net winning team (two players) and any team that raises at least $10 000.
In the first year, the event included 1 700 golfers, 9 000 donors and raised $1.8 million.
"SAP has taken over the golf challenge, so they've come in all guns blazing this year, and I think we're going to have a wonderful time," Els said. "I think we can double what we did last year."
The money is going towards a $30 million education and research facility in south Florida for children with autism. Els' son, Ben, is autistic, and Els has been driven in recent years to help families cope with children with autism and to help find a cure.
Els said with his own money and separate fundraising, he has reached the $9 million mark toward building the centre.
"I was struck when I got to the grand finale in Vegas last year," Els said. "Ninety percent of the people there that played in the challenge, those people's lives are affected by autism, and a lot of them brought their kids to the event. I met people, numerous families, where the families have three kids, and all three of them have autism at a level where they have to care for their kids. They can't even go to a school or anything.
"There were some really heart-wrenching moments there," he said. "We learned. We give back to the autism community, and I think we feel like a big family when we get together there."