Ernie Els has offered some advice to Challenge Tour graduates about to embark on their rookie European Tour campaign ahead of the season opener at Leopard Creek.
The Alfred Dunhill Championship will feature a host of players making their first forays on the Race to Dubai Ranking Presented by Rolex, and they will be keen to enjoy even a fraction of the success Els has had during his illustrious career.
The four-time major winner has captured this title three times in amassing 27 European Tour titles, finishing the season as European Number One twice.
“Back in the day, I played in some smaller European Tour events – Majorca and Santa Ponsa – and I remember those days,” he said.
“You never forget those days. You learn a lot from them. You see very good players playing the game. I remember watching Seve Ballesteros hitting balls on the range, and I just wanted to hang around him all week to see how he hit the ball and how he approached the game.
“The guys have just got to learn from learning, you know. There’s no short cut to it. Just practice hard and play with guys that are a little bit better than you and they will pull you along.
“I’m 50 years old, so I’m not quite the player I used to be, but I’m happy to be here and I love the course. With patience that’s going to be a virtue, hopefully I’ll have a chance if I can keep up with the guys.”
Els’ most recent success here came at the start of the 2006 season, and the 50 year old still has fond memories of that triumph.
“It’s always a great week here,” he said. “It’s nice to see old friends. A lot of the business people from South Africa are here that I’ve known for a very long time, and so is Mr Johann Rupert, who started Leopard Creek, where I’ve been a member since day one. So it’s a wonderful place to come back to.
“I had just come back from knee surgery in the summer and this was like my second tournament back, and I was fortunate enough to be able to win the tournament. It was a really nice comeback. It’s obviously a little bit of a different golf course now. They’ve redesigned the course a little bit, and put new grass in, but there are obviously always great memories when you’ve won a tournament.”