Ernie Els pulling out all stops as In­ter­na­tional cap­tain

Simcoe Reformer - - SPORTS - Den­nis Passa

MEL­BOURNE, Aus­tralia — As hard as he tried, Ernie Els couldn’t put the ball in the cup.

The Big Easy wasn’t on a green at Royal Mel­bourne, though. This was on a plas­tic grass strip in the mid­dle of Brighton Beach, fa­mous for its iconic beach houses, on Mel­bourne’s Port Phillip Bay.

The cup was a gi­ant plas­tic replica of the Pres­i­dents Cup tro­phy, and de­spite try­ing a dozen or more times with a wedge from about 20 me­tres, the clos­est the ball came Mon­day was to ric­o­chet off part of the over­sized tro­phy.

Els is pulling out all the stops to make sure the In­ter­na­tional team, of which he is cap­tain, hoists the real Pres­i­dents Cup next De­cem­ber when the tour­na­ment is held for the third time at Royal Mel­bourne. The In­ter­na­tional team had its only win over the United States in 1998 when it was first held at Royal Mel­bourne, but it has had a dry spell since — no wins and just a tie in South Africa in 2003.

So Els came into Mel­bourne on the week­end to an­nounce dur­ing the fi­nal round of the World Cup at Met­ro­pol­i­tan Golf Club that Aus­tralian vet­eran Ge­off Ogilvy would be one of his cap­tain’s as­sis­tants for the Dec. 9-15, 2019 tour­na­ment. And to meet with the head greenskeeper and of­fi­cials at Royal Mel­bourne to get some in­sights on how he might, as cap­tain of the host team, be able to help set up the course to suit his play­ers.

Tiger Woods, the U.S. cap­tain for the Pres­i­dents Cup next year, will make a sim­i­lar trip to Mel­bourne in early De­cem­ber to check out the golf course and make some pro­mo­tional ap­pear­ances.

On Sun­day night, Els was off to host a re­cep­tion at the Royal Mel­bourne club­house to un­veil a new logo for the In­ter­na­tional team.

The logo at­tempts to give the team a more uni­fied fo­cus while also al­low­ing mem­bers from dif­fer­ent coun­tries to have the flags of their home coun­tries rep­re­sented.

“It’s a spe­cial group of guys from all over the world that make up the Pres­i­dents Cup In­ter­na­tional team,” Els said. “Be­ing from across the globe, we don’t all play for the same flag. This spe­cial group of peo­ple needed some­thing to iden­tify with. To lift the spirit of the team, we felt like we needed a logo for our­selves.”

By Mon­day af­ter­noon, he was dressed more ca­su­ally in slacks and a polo shirt for his beach out­ing and a catered bar­be­cue fea­tur­ing lamb chops and prawns. And, of course, in the Aus­tralian beach tra­di­tion, beers from an “esky,” or portable cooler, tucked in the stand.

The front of one of the beach houses, many of which are worth a half-mil­lion dol­lars de­spite the fact they are no big­ger than a gar­den shed, was re­painted to fea­ture a Pres­i­dents Cup tro­phy.

Mem­bers of the pub­lic walk­ing on the pop­u­lar strip couldn’t be­lieve it when they saw Els try­ing his hand at cricket and pass­ing around an Aus­tralian Rules foot­ball. Au­to­graphs were signed and pleas­antries ex­changed.

He even played Pa­per, Rock, Scis­sors with a wacky tele­vi­sion crew from Perth, Western Aus­tralia, who later chal­lenged him to an­other at­tempt at putting the ball in the plas­tic tro­phy. Ex­cept one of their guys threw the ball at the cup, which was now about 50 or 60 me­tres away, and Els hit a gap wedge.

No luck for Els this time around ei­ther. In be­tween clubs, again.

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