Industry News

‘Big Easy’ answers his adopted homeland’s call

By Alex Miceli

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Ernie Els had no intention of making news on the golf course last week.

After deciding to skip the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on the Monterey Peninsula because his neck was hurting, Els intended to rest at his home in sunny south Florida and get ready for the PGA Tour’s final West Coast event, this week’s Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club.

But then the phone rang. David Trout, the director of golf at Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, was calling with a request: Would “The Big Easy” come and play a round of golf with President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trout?

For Els, the question had an obvious answer.

“When the president calls, you don’t say no,” Els said Tuesday on the practice range at Riviera.

“I can't talk about politics,” said Els, a four-time major champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member from South Africa. “I'm not a U.S. citizen or anything, but he couldn't have been nicer, and Abe is unbelievable. That was one of the more unique experiences. I'm playing with the most powerful guy in the whole world. There must have been 60 people behind him in golf carts. Secret Service. Unbelievable experience.”

Els has played with many heads of state but never with a sitting U.S. president. Els had met Trump, but this was their first round of golf together, and the chief executive made an impression.

“He can hit it,” Els said. “I mean, in his own words, he hasn't played too much, whatever, but he can hit it. He can play.”

The match – Els against Trump, Abe and Trout – ended in a draw, Els said.

Now Els, 47, comes to the West Coast feeling better. After a touch of the flu, a neck issue and the travel, he said the week off was the right decision.

“I'm not as nimble and loose as I used to be.” 

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli