Ernie Els was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday, and he gave pride of place to two South African trophies in his personal display in the museum.
ÂYou must see the South African Open trophy in there,Â he said at a media conference. ÂThatÂs a special one. I won that five times, and the South African PGA Championship trophy is in there.Â
Els was elected on the PGA Tour ballot. Japanese icon Jumbo Ozaki, who won more than 100 tournaments, was voted into the Hall of Fame on the International ballot.
Doug Ford and the late Jock Hutchison, both two-time major champions, were selected through the Veterans category.
Former President George HW Bush and the late Frank Chirkinian, the television golf producer for CBS Sports, were selected through the Lifetime Achievement category.
The ceremony included a tribute to another Hall of Famer, Seve Ballesteros, who died on Saturday of a cancerous brain tumour. The Spanish flag at the Hall of Fame was flown at half-mast and BallesterosÂ Hall of Fame plaque was adorned by a black ribbon.
Players must be at least 40 to be considered for the Hall of Fame, and Els was voted in on his first ballot. This is the first time since Vijay Singh in 2006 when an active player was inducted.
He was honoured on the strength of his three major championships, 15 PGA Tour titles, 21 European Tour victories and 18 titles on South AfricaÂs Sunshine Tour, including three Nedbank Golf Challenge victories. There have also been eight other wins, six Presidents Cup appearances, nine Dunhill Cup appearances and he played five times in the World Cup.
ÂI think itÂll be a very special feeling to step on the first tee knowing youÂve made the Hall of Fame,Â said Els. ÂIÂm still trying to win golf tournaments, still trying to win major championships, so I think itÂs a huge bonus for anybodyÂs career.
ÂComing from South Africa, I didnÂt even know there was a Hall of Fame. My dream was to win majors and to try and do what Gary Player did, win the Grand Slam and win a bunch of golf tournaments,Â he added.
He was introduced to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony by Sunshine Tour chairman Johann Rupert. ÂJohann has had a great influence on my life,Â said Els.
ÂHe’s helped not only me but many, many other players with advice or help when they needed it. He really kind of kick-started my career. And now heÂs just kicking my backside,Â he laughed.
He also paid tribute to his wife Liezl: ÂAt times sheÂs had to pull me out of some dark holes, and I really appreciate it. SheÂs just been a pillar of strength behind me for all these years, and I just couldnÂt have asked for a better wife and better help than she is through life. Sometimes you need that.Â