Some of the biggest names in golf, including Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jack Nicklaus, Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Thomas, Branden Grace and Ernie Els, joined 25 teams of amateurs yesterday in the ninth annual Els for Autism Pro-Am at Old Palm Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The event raised $1,015,000 for the Els for Autism Foundation.
The Pro-Am, which was founded by Els and Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado and Wine Spectator magazines, has funded a modern school for autistic children called the Els Center of Excellence in Jupiter, Florida. The site is not only a school but a hub of education and information for autism, one of the most serious developmental disorders affecting children in the world today.
The Center has been expanded, and this summer the upper school at the Center will open, admitting its first class of high school students. Beginning in September, there will be 300 special needs children attending the Center.
The event was won by the team led by Marvin R. Shanken, pro golfer Branden Grace, former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and radio personality Rush Limbaugh. "I had one of the best times I've ever had in a golf tournament," said Limbaugh. "Sometimes things go your way," said Shanken, who joked that Limbaugh hit the ball so well that "he can give up radio and turn pro."
Second place went to the team with golf legend Jack Nicklaus, Larry Schwartz, Steve Rust and Jeff Ivey. "I haven't held a trophy in 10 years," said Nicklaus.
Third place went to Charl Schwartzel, who played with Wayne Chaplin and John Esposito.
The star golfers who played were Branden Grace, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Cameron Tringale, Camilo Villegas, Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Thomas, Jack Nicklaus, Thomas Aiken, Andrew Johnston, Jamie Lovemark, Ernie Els, Brooks Koepka, Ian Baker-Finch, Alex Cejka, K.J. Choi, Daniel Berger, Bryson DeChambeau, Luke Donald, Ken Duke, Tony Finau, Keegan Bradley, Charl Schwartzel and Kylie Reifers.
Among the teams were executives from Bacardi, Charmer Sunbelt, Deutsch & Sons, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Republic National, Richemont Group, SAP, Southern Glazer's, Stonehage and Republic National Distributing.