Two friends shared a special round of golf when Copperleaf hosted its Els for Autism day, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
It was only fitting that Branus Viljoen and best friend Johan Steyn emerged victorious at the Els For Autism Golf Day at The Els Club, Copperleaf – the first one to be held on the estate. Viljoen is not only a resident on the estate, but also finds himself closely linked with the cause because of his own daughter’s disability.
‘I’m a massive fan of The Big Easy, so I was never going to miss this day,’ says Viljoen. ‘From him as a player to his course design work and then, obviously, the wonderful work he does in the US and here back home.’
Viljoen’s choice of partner for the day was easy – it was always going to be his good mate Johan. And what a start they got off to.
‘I’m a four-handicap but Johan came out firing and we scored 26 points on the front nine. It was probably all due to him. He played his socks off.’
‘I knew I could go low on the back nine and luckily I managed to pull my weight with a one-under-par nine to get us over the line. It’s a cliche, but we really did dovetail nicely.’
The pair had recently returned home from a golf tour – which coincidentally happened to have been at Highland Gate, the venue of the series final.
‘When I found out we’d be going back for two days, I was really psyched. The course is fantastic and it’s a phenomenal experience.
‘I am a bit of an Els design addict – I love it at Copperleaf and Oubaai, and Highland Gate is another absolute gem.’
The chance to meet Els, should they triumph in the finals, would be the realisation of a lifelong dream for Steyn.
‘Ernie is the reason I play the game. I watched him during the 1990s when he was on fire and
I was instantly hooked.’
Steyn recalls a meeting with Els’ long-time caddie Ricci Roberts and the thought of having some of his stories confirmed by the four-time Major winner would be the icing on the cake.
‘There are many legendary tales involving Ernie; I’d love to find out which ones are 100% true,’ he says with a grin.
He would also like to pick his brain on Els For Autism to find out the future plans, especially within the South African context.
But if Steyn wants to do that, he will need to first put himself in the picture by seeing off a whole host of like-minded golfers from around the country, all jostling for the big prize at Highland Gate early in November.
HOW CAN READERS HELP?
Els for Autism funds its centre mainly through golf days, which form part of the ‘Els for Autism Drive to the SA Open’. You can enter these golf days:
14 September: Fancourt
28 September: Mount Edgecombe CC
20 October: Silver Lakes
26 October: Ebotse Links
2-3 November: Highland Gate (final)
HOW IT STARTED
The Els for Autism Foundation was established in 2009 by Ernie and Liezl Els to focus on autism, a couple of years after discovering their son, Ben, was severely affected by the disorder, which impacts one in 68 people worldwide. Els for Autism aims to provide affected families with best-practice interventions and support.
In 2011, Ernie and Liezl initiated a project to create a service that would give lower-resourced families of children on the spectrum in South Africa free access to effective treatment and the Ernie Els Centre for Autism was born.
The Children’s Memorial Institute (Gate 13), cnr Empire Rd and Joubert St Ext, Braamfontein 2011
Tel: (011) 484-7254
– This article first appeared in the September issue of Compleat Golfer