Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ernie Knew He Had to Keep the Putts Rolling in for His Son, Ben; South African Says He Was Inspired to Victory Knowing His Autistic Nine-Year-Old Was Watching on TV

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ernie Knew He Had to Keep the Putts Rolling in for His Son, Ben; South African Says He Was Inspired to Victory Knowing His Autistic Nine-Year-Old Was Watching on TV

Article excerpt

Byline: David Smith

ERNIE ELS has revealed how his autistic son Ben was the inspiration behind one of the greatest comebacks in Open Championship history. Els had to call on all his immense talent at Royal Lytham and St Annes to fight from six shots down at the turn in yesterday's final round and card a back nine in four under par that proved just good enough to beat an imploding Adam Scott by one shot.

But always in the back of the South African's mind was the thought that nine-year-old Ben was glued to the drama unfolding on television back home at Wentworth in Surrey. Els, who was celebrating his fourth Major victory 18 years after he claimed his first, said: "I made a lot of putts with Ben in mind because I knew he was watching.

"He loves it when I hit golf balls. He loves the flight of the ball and the sound. He gets really excited and I wanted to keep him excited, so I made a lot of putts for him."

Els revealed his son's condition in 2008 and he and his wife, Liezl, now divide their time between their home in England and another in West Palm Beach in Florida where they have become dedicated to raising awareness of autism and money for research into the disability.

The 42-year-old admitted that setting up the Els for Autism Foundation had been a distraction but he added: "I think I've now got to a point where I can definitely separate my private and charity life from my golf life.

"Emotionally and mentally I'm in a better place."

As Els slumped as low as 65th in the rankings many observers within golf wrote him off as a major force. But his caddie, Ricci Roberts, insists a second Open to add to Els's two US Open titles will not be the end of the story.

Roberts, who guided Els to a final round 68 for a seven-under-par total of 273, said: "Ernie really worked hard for this. He put in all the hours, all the time, all the effort which other people don't see, and I'm so happy for him because he truly deserved it.

"And I still think he has got three or four Majors left in him.

"He has had a big mountain in front of him and he's started to climb it now. …

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