…chance meetings….Ernie Els

I’m the first to admit I have had some wonderful things happen to me through the years. However, the memories which stick out most are the people I have had a chance to meet. Be it in front of the radio microphone or simply through my journey of life. So here is the first of a series called ‘chance meetings’…

I have attended several PGA tournaments. For a few years my wife and I lived within earshot of TPC Sawgrass where the Players Championship is contested annually.

My favorite places to watch are the practice tee or near a green. One year, Ernie Els made a spectacular up and down from a difficult lie and as he walked by me on his way to the next tee, I simple said ‘Great up and down, Ernie!’ It’s a phrase I might use on my Saturday foursome, and I have used the phrase on pro’s at golf tournaments everywhere, never has there been a response from a pro. ‘The BIG Easy’ walked by and simply said…’Hey Thanks man!’ So even before my ‘chance meeting’ I was already a pretty big fan…

In 1998 I had the opportunity to go to the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Orlando. Those days the academy was at the Lake Nona Country Club, it has since moved to Champion Lakes. After one morning session, my friends and I headed to the grille room for some lunch, when a very tall blonde man entered the dining area. There was no one in the room except us three (myself and two other friends had been taking lessons at the golf academy), as he approached there was no mistaking it was Ernie Els, 2 time US Open Champion and winner of the Open Championship, I was geeked! He walked right up to our table, introduced himself, asked if everything was to our liking, then proceeded to engage in small talk for about four or five minutes. I was struck by how interested he was in our games, in our thoughts about the facility, the food, the weather! After about 5 minutes his wife or maybe girlfriend at the time (they were married in ’98) Liezl walked in to the room and he greeted her and walked over to his own table.

Though it was only five minutes or less, I was struck in how pleasant, how interested, how genuine Ernie appeared. To this day, if Ernie is in a tournament, you can guarantee I’m pulling for him.  It was a ‘chance meeting’, one of the shortest I’ve experienced, but, one which made a huge and lasting impression on me.

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