What is Ernie Els’ Net Worth and Career Earnings?
Ernie Els is a South African professional golfer who has a net worth of $85 million. Among his career achievements, Ernie Els twice won both the US Open and the Open Championship, and won the World Match Play Championship a record seven times. Beyond his playing career, Els runs a golf course design business, a winemaking business, and a charitable foundation.
During his professional career, Ernie Els earned just under $50 million in tournament prize money. He earned tens of millions more from endorsements and continues to earn millions per year from his various endeavors.
Ernie Els was born as Theodore Ernest Els on October 17, 1969 in Johannesburg, South Africa and was brought up in the small town of Germiston with his older brother Dirk. He got into sports early on in life, playing tennis, rugby, and cricket before his father Neels taught him how to golf. Els soon became a skilled golf player, and rose to prominence in 1984 by winning the Junior World Golf Championship. When he was 17, he won the South African Amateur, making him the youngest person ever to win that event.
Professional Playing, Part 1
In 1989, Els turned professional. Two years later, he won his first professional tournament on the Southern Africa Tour. Els went on to win his first tournament outside of South Africa in 1993 at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan. The following year, he claimed his first major championship title at the US Open. Els continued his success at tournaments around the world over the ensuing years, winning the Dubai Desert Classic and the Byron Nelson Classic. He also won a record three consecutive World Match Play Championships from 1994 to 1996. Els concluded 1996 with a win at the South African Open. The next year, he won his second US Open title to become the first international player since Alex Smith nearly 100 years prior to win that tournament twice. Els also won the Johnnie Walker Classic. He finished the decade with four wins apiece on both the PGA and European Tours in 1998 and 1999.
In 2000, Els finished in the runner-up position in numerous tournaments, including the US Open, the Open Championship, and the Masters. He posted nine more second-place finishes in 2001, the first year since 1994 in which he failed to win a PGA Tour event in the US. Els came back strong in 2002 in what was perhaps his best career season. Starting with a win at the Heineken Classic, he continued his success by winning the Genuity Championship and then the Open Championship at Muirfield. Additionally, Els won his fourth World Match Play Championship. In 2003, he earned his first European Tour Order of Merit and took consecutive wins at the Mercedes Championship in the US. Finishing the year, Els claimed a record fifth World Match Play title. He had further success in 2004 with another European Order of Merit title and a sixth World Match Play title. In 2005, Els won the Dunhill Championship and the Qatar Masters.
Professional Playing, Part 2
Ernie Els created a three-year plan in 2007 to beat Tiger Woods as the World No. 1 golfer. He went on to win the Honda Classic in early 2008, his first PGA Tour title in three-and-a-half years and his 16th overall. In 2010, Els won his second WGC-CA Championship and his first Arnold Palmer Invitational; he closed out the year with further wins at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf and the South African Open. The following year, he struggled with his performance, falling from the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 50 for the first time in 18 years. Although it initially seemed that 2012 would be another disappointing year for Els, as he had failed to qualify for the Masters for the first time in 19 years, he surprised everyone by winning the Open Championship. This victory singlehandedly revived his waning career.
Els claimed his first victory since the Open Championship at the BMW International Open in Germany in 2013; it was his 28th title on the European Tour. He subsequently struggled with his form in 2014, and again in 2015 and 2016. The latter year was particularly rough for Els, as his putting performance at the Masters was widely ridiculed by the media. In early 2020, he made a better impression after joining the PGA Tour Champions and tying for the lead in his first event. A couple months later, Els won the Hoag Classic, and toward the end of the year, won the SAS Championship.
Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy
As an entrepreneur, Els runs a golf course design business that has designed courses all over the world, including in China, South Africa, Malaysia, and Mauritius. On the philanthropic side of things, he founded the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation in 1999 to foster participation in golf among underprivileged South African youth. The Foundation plays in the Friendship Cup, a match play competition. Els also co-founded the college recruiting service ASM Scholarships, which was launched in 2018. The company helps athletes around the globe secure athletic scholarships to play NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA sports at American universities.
Among his other philanthropic endeavors, Els has been significantly involved in charities committed to supporting those with autism, a condition his son has. In 2009, he inaugurated a charity golf event called Els for Autism Pro-Am, which takes place at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The inaugural event raised $725,000 for the non-profit autism charter school the Renaissance Learning Center.
In 1998, Els married his wife Liezi. They have a daughter named Samantha and a son named Ben. The family’s main residence is at the Wentworth Estate in southern England, with other homes in South Africa and Jupiter, Florida.