Els committed to tackling autism

There was a real human story behind the golfing one as Ernie Els became Open champion again at Royal Lytham.

Golf News: Ben Els.

Between his two victories 10 years apart Els and his wife Liezl have become major fund-raisers after the discovery when he was seven that their son Ben has autism.

They moved their main home from Wentworth to Florida and established the "Els for Autism Foundation".

They also launched a campaign to raise £20million for a Centre of Excellence, committing £4million of their own money. The land is now bought and it is hoped it will open next year.

On his website Els writes about the years he and Liezl suspected something was wrong with Ben, now nine.

"I mean, there's a process that every kid goes through. Crawl at nine months, walk at 12 months, and then start talking and so on.

"With Ben we started thinking 'Why is he not crawling, why is he not walking, why is he not looking me in the eye?' - things like that. We soon discovered he was quite severely touched by autism.

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"One in 110 children is affected by autism and that was perhaps the most shocking thing about all of this. It hits the whole family hard.

"For a long time you are trying to figure out what just happened to my life. You feel sorry for yourself and for your kid and for your family.

"And the tragedy is that even in this day and age, the kid who has autism is often forgotten about. The feeling is that he's almost a waste of time, which says a lot more about society than it does the child. It's heart-breaking.

"Years from now people may remember me as a golfer and a major champion, but I'd like also to be remembered as somebody who took the issue of autism and did something with it.

"The rest of my life I'll be fighting this thing."



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