Els into Hall of Fame on first ballot

BY foxsports • September 22, 2010

Ernie Els was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame on Wednesday in the first year he was on the ballot.

Els, a three-time major champion from South Africa with 62 victories around the world, received 66 percent of the vote from a panel of journalists, golf officials and Hall of Fame members.

''It makes you feel very good about what you've done,'' Els said.

Els will be among five players who are inducted May 9 in St. Augustine, Florida, the Monday of The Players Championship next year.

Doug Ford, whose 19 wins on the PGA Tour include the Masters and PGA Championship, and two-time major winner Jock Hutchison from Scotland were elected through the Veteran's Category.

The Hall of Fame also will have a former U.S. president enshrined for the second straight time. Former president George H.W. Bush was selected in the Lifetime Achievement category, with Dwight D. Eisenhower inducted in 2009.

World Golf Hall of Fame chief executive Jack Peter said one player was elected fron the International ballot. That player will be announced Oct. 6.

Of all his worldwide titles, one that stands out for Els is his first big one - the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont, in a three-man playoff that included Loren Roberts and Colin Montgomerie.

''If you rewind the history just to my homeland of South Africa, when President Mandela was elected as president, that was a huge year in 1994,'' he said. ''If I look back, that will be my defining moment, as a young pro from South Africa and winning the biggest tournament in the world, the U.S. Open. You've got to call that a defining moment. And from then on, it was a very comfortable ride.''

Els went on to win the U.S. Open at Congressional in 1997, and the British Open at Muirfield in 2002.

He possessed so much skill and power, along with a soft touch around the greens, that Hall of Fame member Curtis Strange referred to him that year as ''the next guy.'' Because of Strange's thick Virginia accent, some newspaper accounts quoted him as saying the ''next god.''