Ernie Els returned to his childhood home town on Tuesday ahead of the BMW South African Open Championship proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni and promised that he would have world number three Rory McIlroy playing the 2017 version of the tournament.
Els is player-host for the world’s second-oldest open championship in golf which will be played at Glendower Golf Club, and, when he played in last year’s Irish Open, which is similarly hosted by McIlroy, he got the Irishman to commit to returning the favour and playing in the SA Open.
“I thought I’ll leave him this year, but definitely next year we’ll get him down here, maybe put him up in Cape Town, have a good new year down there, and get him to come and play here,” said Els. “I gave him two years to do his thing, and he’s such a great friend of ours and a great supporter of our charity and stuff like that, and we might not even stop there. We’re looking at some other really great players. It’s coming, It’ll happen. I’m really excited about that.”
For now, Els is just happy to be back on his old stomping ground. “This area was my home for the first 20 years of my life,” he said, “and I’ve played so much golf here. I have so many great memories – you know South African Amateurs and the Glendower Silver Vase, the betterball I think it was – so I’m really up for it. I love this golf course, so hopefully I can play well.”
It was Els’ first year in his hosting role last year, and he believes he’s getting the hang of it. “We’ll do the discussions this week to see where it’s going to go,” said Els. “It might stay here Glendower, but we might move it around. We’ll see what the plan is.”
Whatever the plan is, Els is committed to playing in his home open championship for a long time to come. “From my point of view to play in the South African Open is always been a treat,” he said. “I did miss it for quite a few years. But I’m getting on and I can change my schedule a bit and I’ve made sure I’m going to be playing this event.”