A special moment during the Omeya GC day stands out in yet another busy month for the Els for Autism golf day series, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
Compleat Golfer’s Namibian friends once again showed why the leap of faith in taking the golf day to a different country was a big move in the right direction.
Now in its third year at Omeya, the locals turned out in numbers. It’s one of the club’s most anticipated events, with invites delayed until two months before the day to build up excitement.
‘Namibians have big hearts, which means we are never going to struggle to fill the field,’ says Dan Zwiebel, a former Sunshine Tour employee who acts as the day’s custodian across the border.
‘Nico van Rensburg and myself go way back. We first threw out the idea of coming to Namibia in 2016 and it’s been plenty of fun since then.’
This year, 32 pairs headed on to the course for a place in the final at Lost City Golf Course.
‘We are always treated so well here; credit must go to Dan and his team,’ says Van Rensburg, Ernie Els’ business manager and organiser of the series. ‘The course was in immaculate condition and despite the temps soaring into the high 30s, the golf was really good,’ he adds.
Duan Jansen and Carel Schoeman were top of the pile after accumulating 47 points.
As the 2019 theme of ‘bigger and better’ seems to continue at every venue, Omeya’s members and guests continued to support the fundraising cause with their wallets.
With all the post-round fun and laughter, there was a moment at the now-legendary auction that left many, if not all of the attendees with tears in their eyes.
Zwiebel, who will be custodian of the Els for Autism day in 2020, albeit at a different course, picks up the story: ‘This year, in the buildup to the event I happened to meet a young boy, Liam Fouche, who lives with autism. It was quite an emotional moment as we too often leave little time to pause for thought about the event and what families like Fouche’s go through on a day-to-day basis.
‘We knew it would be special for Liam’s folks to attend the evening function at the Am Weinberg Hotel in Windhoek. It just felt right to ask even more from the players as we held an impromptu fundraiser for the Fouche family. A loyal Els for Autism supporter, Shaun Smith, went one step further and donated the item he had bid on back to the Fouches. It was amazing how Shaun’s gesture was received and in that moment with our two special guests, it was clear to see how much awareness was raised around autism.’
Part of Els’ vision is to grow autism awareness in Africa, not simply in South Africa. ‘We are exploring the option of taking the event into new places over the border, and there promises to be some exciting developments in this space,’ says Van Rensburg.
Also this month, the golf day visited Heron Banks on the Vaal River. The course was in lush condition after more than 150mm of rain fell in the run-up to the event. Thankfully, it was played in dry conditions, with Anton van Damme and Gibs Gerber booking their place in the final. Their score of 49 points is the highest so far in 2019, and they will no doubt be tough to beat when the qualifying pairs head to Sun City for the final.
HOW CAN READERS HELP?
16 May: Mount Edgecombe Country Club
6 June: Royal Johannesburg and Kensington (East)
27 June: Randpark Golf Club
17 August: Highland Gate Golf Estate
3 October: Silver Lakes Golf Estate
24 October: Ebotse Golf Estate
30-31 October: Lost City (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