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September 22, 2010

Ernie Els

Tim Finchem

Jack Peter

JANE FADER: Good morning. Thank you all for being here today. I'm Jane Fader, I'm the director of communications for the World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum. Today we will be announcing four members of the class of 2011. There will be one final induction announcement that will happen in October, so stay tuned for that information.
The individuals announced today will be inducted on Monday, May 9, 2011, which happens to be the Monday of THE PLAYERS Championship. We are definitely excited to kick off what should be a really exciting week for that tournament. The induction ceremony will take place at World Golf Village, where it traditionally has and World Golf Village is just 30 minutes south of Ponte Vedra Beach where the PLAYERS Championship will be taking place later that week.
At this time I'd like to introduce Jack Peter, the senior vice-president and chief operating officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
JACK PETER: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here. And to those on the phone, thank you for being with us, as well.
I think it's really appropriate that we're here at the home court today of our Hall of Fame member Bobby Jones. I think to use this as a backdrop for the home course of one of the greatest players of all time is really a thrill for the Hall of Fame, and we couldn't be more delighted to be here.
I want to take a moment and thank the people who are hosting us here today. They've been very gracious. First I'd like to thank Tom Cousins and East Lake Foundation. They do a great job with this event, always a first class job, and we can't thank them enough; Sandy Douglas and Coke for their continued support and sponsorship of the event; David Radcliffe and the team of the Southern Company.
I also want to give a special tip of the hat to Tom Lehman, who last night was named the 2010 recipient of the Payne Stewart Award. Payne is another esteemed member of the Hall of Fame, and we couldn't be more pleased for Tom.
Finally, Rob Johnson, the general chairman, and Todd Rhinehart, the tournament director, gentlemen, we want to thank you. We wish you the best of luck this week. We're looking forward to some great golf on a great course. We look forward to it.
So again, it's another historic day for the World Golf Hall of Fame as we announce the class of 2011. With that I'd like to turn it over to the commissioner of the PGA TOUR, Tim Finchem.
TIM FINCHEM: Thank you, Jack.
Good morning, everyone. First of all, I think it's fair to say we'll have a very exciting class of inductees to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011. We're delighted to be able to coordinate that induction with the staging of THE PLAYERS Championship in 2011, as well. It occurs to us that this is a real opportunity to shine a brighter spotlight both on the Hall of Fame itself and on the players who will be -- and former players who will be inducted. We will have a class of five individuals, and it's my pleasure to announce four of them here this morning.
First, I'm pleased to announce that from the veterans category, and for those of you who may not be aware, the veterans category is a category of potential induction that was created years ago at the Hall of Fame to recognize players who had distinguished careers but are not current in their -- have not been current with the current and modern Hall of Fame in their competitive days.
We are going to announce two players from that category that were approved by the World Golf Hall of Foundation Board. The first is Doug Ford. Doug enjoyed an enormously successful career on the PGA TOUR. He won the 1955 PGA Championship, the 1957 Masters tournament. In addition, he had 17 other PGA TOUR victories, and he appeared in the Ryder Cup on four different occasions. Later on he played the Champions Tour. He served as a player director on that Tour. Doug is not with us today. As you may know, Doug is 88 years old, and if you can believe this, he is participating currently from time to time in golf exhibitions, and he's actually doing one today which prevented him from making the trip.
Secondly, we're announcing that the late Jock Hutchison from St. Andrews, Scotland, will be inducted in May. Jock won the 1920 PGA Championship, the 1921 Open Championship, and the 1920 and 1923 Western Opens. In addition, he recorded victories 10 other times on the PGA TOUR. He won the inaugural Senior PGA championship in 1937, and then he won it again 10 years later in 1947. We're pleased that Jock Hutchison will be joining the Hall of Fame in May.
In the lifetime achievement category, which is a category ordained by the board to recognize individuals for special lifetime achievement in supporting the game of golf, we're pleased to announce that the former President of the United States George H. W. Bush has been selected and will be inducted in May. Unfortunately President Bush could not make this trip today. I've spoken to him about this a couple of times in recent weeks and visited with him. He's very excited about his induction potential. He becomes the second President of the United States to be inducted. President Eisenhower was inducted in 2009. It's fair to say that President Bush was selected for his overall and varied contributions to the game, primarily in promoting the game and his public support of the game, but I think most notably that would certainly have to reference his service since 1997 as the honorary chairman of the First Tee effort, which has now reached 3.9 million kids around the country. President Bush has visited a wide range of chapters of the First Tee program, attended openings of facilities, promoted the game through his own correspondence, visited with the trustees of the First Tee every year at the First Tee meeting, and he's been extremely active. And his leadership in the First Tee has had a lot to do with its success.
I first met President Bush at 41 at the White House in 1989, when I attended or I was with Sam Snead on a three-day book tour of a book called The History of the PGA TOUR, which at that time had declared him the No. 1 player in the history of the PGA TOUR, and I recall with fondness the interface between Sam Snead and President Bush which was culminated with the president being the recipient of a golf lesson out behind the Oval Office working on his wedge play with the indomitable Sam Snead. It was quite an experience. Sam indicated that the president needed a little work on his game.
Finally I'd like to announce the candidate elected this year through the PGA TOUR ballot. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Ernie Els. Ernie?
JANE FADER: Ernie, thank you for being with us this morning. If you want to start off just by talking a little bit about when you got the phone call and what were some of your initial thoughts about this honor.
ERNIE ELS: I mean, quite surprised. I got the call from the commissioner first, and I think it was last week or the week before in Chicago, and he told me to keep quiet, you know, not say anything, and it was pretty hard to do. I only told my family about it the night before last before I came here because I knew, especially my daughter, she wouldn't be able to keep it quiet. I think everybody at the Pine School knows about it, her dad going into the Hall of Fame.
Yeah, it was quite a surprise, you know. I thought for one you had to be a little bit more senior, but I've spoken to Jack, and we're going to have obviously more conversation closer to the event. But obviously this makes the year, it makes you feel very good about maybe what you've done. Golf is obviously -- you'd like the think you could have done more and can still do more, but obviously very, very honored to be inducted.

Q. What are you most proud of in your career?
ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, it's funny, I was at the Payne Stewart Award last night, and I heard Tom Lehman speak, speak very well, and he said a couple of things which really rang true.
In these things, in awards like these, basically it's a big team effort, and there's a lot of people behind you, behind the scenes that you don't normally see or talk about. So what I'm most proud of is the collective effort of myself and Liezl, because I've known Liezl before we got married only in '99, and we were together from '93, so she's seen the bitter struggle that we had to go through and all of that.
But most proud, when I speak to my parents probably this afternoon, that will be a great thrill. It's how you make other people feel that's close to you that makes you really feel good. You know, obviously I've had a lot of achievements, I've won a lot of golf tournaments, especially worldwide, but on the PGA TOUR. I've won, I think, 18 times collectively, including majors. So for a boy from South Africa, that's kind of nice.
Growing up I also had my heroes in Pricey, Greg Norman, you go back to Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, guys like that, and every young kid wants to be like his hero, and to actually play it out in real life in some ways is quite thrilling.

Q. You mentioned you thought you had to be a little more senior to receive this honor. Did you actually know that you were eligible to be inducted this year?
ERNIE ELS: You know, when I was in South Africa in October, there was some journalist, every time I go to South Africa somebody wants to know something from me, so somebody dropped the ball a little bit and said that, you know, you're on the list for vote. So I obviously had a bit of an indication that guys were -- I was on some kind of a list.
So yeah, I mean, I remember when Vijay got inducted. He was pretty much my age, I think. So I guess you've got to be 40 to be eligible. You know, it's nice to get in quickly. So I've got to thank you guys, I guess. I'll find out from Jack, who I've got to thank, but hopefully I'll thank you in my speech when I do it.

Q. Speaking of speeches, I'd just be curious what's the most nervous you've ever been outside of a golf course and what's the biggest speech you've ever given?
ERNIE ELS: I always give speeches, actually. But then again, luckily enough, I've been involved in quite a few things in South Africa from an early age, and I've had to stand in front of people quite a few times. But this will be the biggest one, I think, because nobody wants to choke on their speech when you're in front of a lot of people and family and so on. But I think I'll enjoy it once I get into the flow. There's going to be a lot of things I'm going to talk about, and I'll -- I'll prepare, but I don't think I'll be reading anything down from paper. I think I'll just let it fly.
As I say, there's going to be a lot of things that I need to touch on and speak, and hopefully I won't forget anybody. But yeah, I'll desperately be shaking in my boots when I stand there in May.

Q. I think you have to get like 70 percent of the vote or something like that to get elected, and very few people get in on their first ballot. Does that mean something to you, that you made an impression on people that right away they considered you a first-ballot Hall of Famer?
ERNIE ELS: That was the first thing I went through in my mind. I knew obviously from the rumors that had been spread in South Africa that getting in at 40, when you're eligible, is a pretty big deal because obviously people thought of things in the right way, or I won the right tournaments. I don't know how you vote a guy in. But it's obviously quite an honor to be put on a list and then be voted in at 40. I'm really grateful for that, and obviously it means I did something right.

Q. I don't know if they told you that they've got a little display case for the inductees, and you've got to fork over some knickknacks from throughout your career. Do you have anything in mind that are uniquely Ernie Els that would sort of tell the story?
ERNIE ELS: Well, there's a lot. My career spans back a long time. But we'll find out from Jack exactly how I got in and on which category. You know, I'd love to show you some of the stuff I won in 1984, but I don't know if that's going to be applicable to my category. Whatever I need to bring, I'll bring. I'd love to bring obviously U.S. Open trophies. I remember winning the Byron Nelson tournament back in '95 when Lord Byron was still around and how special that was. And obviously winning at Jack Nicklaus' place and Arnold Palmer's. I won quite a few legends with their names on golf tournaments, and it was nice to have him on the green with me, and even Gene Sarazen back in '95, I won here in Atlanta, won a golf tournament Chateau Elan with Mr. Sarazen with me.
So yeah, that's quite a bit of history back there. I've been playing the TOUR for -- from just when the commissioner took over, so that's a long time. (Laughter.)
TIM FINCHEM: Ernie and I were seated together at a dinner in Augusta in '94, we first met, and then he won the Open two months later.
So a month after that, I said, "Ernie, when we were talking at Augusta, I had no idea you were going to win a major championship that quick." And he said, "Yeah, I didn't know you were going to be commissioner." (Laughter.)
ERNIE ELS: That goes back a while.

Q. Talk about the pride back home when news filters out in your homeland about this. Talk about that, what you would imagine.
ERNIE ELS: Well, I figure they'll be proud. Obviously my career on the PGA TOUR alone goes back to the days when President Mandela got elected as president back in South Africa eventually, you know, after he got released from Robben Island. So time flies. It's quite a bit of history just in my little bit of years here on the PGA TOUR, and obviously my international career stretches back to when I turned pro back in 1990. So yeah, we've got quite a bit a time down-playing-wise.
And obviously my history as a golfer goes back in South Africa to the days back in the early '80s when we were isolated from Golf worldwide, and especially Gary Player doing it for us on the pro Tour and me as a youngster in amateur golf, winning the World Junior and playing in Europe as an amateur. People have been very similar of myself and my career since I was very young. So I think they'll like it. And that's why I think my list going back to Jack here organizing my event for the inauguration, I have quite a list of people coming from South Africa sitting in the stands. So I think they'll really enjoy it.

Q. If you take care of business this week, you could actually be inducted as the reining Tour Player of the Year, which would be kind of cool.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think I obviously had a really, really good chance up until the U.S. Open, and then my game hasn't quite been really on fire since then. But I've been showing some flashes, especially in Chicago I had a bit of a flash there, and I feel my game is coming together. So this is a huge week, and I know there's a lot of players with a shot, and it seems like the guy that could win three events -- there's a lot of us winning two events, and then Phil obviously with the major, the U.S. Masters, so there's a lot to be playing for this week. Yeah, it would be kind of a double whammy, whatever you call it over here.

Q. What are your thoughts heading into this week? What are your thoughts about the tweaks made to the FedExCup Playoffs?
ERNIE ELS: Well, they've definitely given us more to talk about. I remember the first year it was basically done -- either the first or second year, I think when Vijay just had to keep breathing and he was going to win it. So I think what the guys have done has really given everybody a legitimate chance. When you get into the Playoffs, if you play good enough, anybody can still win the FedExCup.
I think, hey, nobody is going to think it's perfect. I'm one of them. I think -- I was leading it right after the FedEx playoff race, and as I said, I haven't had any game together, and that's why I'm eighth on the points list. But I still have a chance to win, you know. So I think it's much more exciting. I think it gives guys a real legitimate chance to think they can win it if they just qualify at the Barclays, and I think that's what the Playoffs are all about.

Q. You mentioned a lot of moments in your career. Is there one defining one for you if you had to select one? Or do you hope that maybe it's yet to come?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think early in your career when you're in your 20s, you're basically trying to find your feet and see if you're good enough to play with the guys. Obviously a win goes a very long way, and obviously winning the U.S. Open in '94 at Oakmont. And when I look back now, it was the time that was Arnold Palmer's U.S. Open in his hometown of Pittsburgh and me coming through as a 24 year old.
And again, if you rewind the history just to my homeland of South Africa when President Mandela was elected as president, I mean, that was a huge year in '94. 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, I guess. And from then on, it was a very comfortable ride.

Q. You mentioned Liezl a minute ago. I'm just curious if there's one either piece of advice or example of encouragement that she's given you that stands out over the years.
ERNIE ELS: Oh, the people that know Liezl know she's got quite a strong character. So do I, so it's good that I've married a wife with a stronger character than I have, basically. She's pulled me back onto the rails quite a few times in my career.
You should maybe ask her that question. Maybe she can answer it better. But she's just a very strong woman, and they always say behind any successful person, there's a stronger woman, and that rings true in my case, too.

Q. Do you think she'd answer the question?
ERNIE ELS: She'd probably duck and dive it, but you might get lucky. You might get an answer from her.

Q. Can you tell us your thoughts on this golf course, please?
ERNIE ELS: Well, it's a great layout. It's in a great area. Obviously Mr. Cousins was very influential at the club here. He's done unbelievable things. That he got the course and the club and really the community back on track, back in shape, and I think the TOUR with Commissioner Finchem bringing a tournament like the TOUR Championship back here into the area, to the Atlanta area, has been really a home run.
An end-of-the-year event, whenever you get into a tournament like this, top 30 players, you know you've had a very good year. And to be rewarded to play a golf course like East Lake is always great. It's an old, classic course. It's been very tough on the schedule to get a golf course at the end of the year in the right area because you can really just play it in the south where the weather is good enough to play, especially when we had this tournament in October or November. And to pull this one off was pretty good.
Obviously when the Playoffs started, when the years got a little shorter, this is still a very good course for this time of the year. They had to change the grass on the course. They had to go back to a more grainy grass, the Bermuda, and they've got it in unbelievable shape this year again. It couldn't be at a better venue.
JANE FADER: If there are no further questions, we will wrap this up. Thank you for being here today, and congratulations.

End of FastScripts

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