Four-time major champion Ernie Els will receive the 2015 Payne Stewart Award, it was announced Wednesday.
The PGA Tour and Southern Company present the award annually “to a professional golfer who best exemplifies Stewart’s steadfast values of character, charity and sportsmanship.” Stewart, who won three majors among 11 tour titles, died tragically in a 1999 plane accident, just months after winning the U.S. Open.
Els, whose son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism in 2009, has devoted himself to improving the lives of those with autism spectrum disorder. Els and his wife, Liezl, established the Els for Autism Foundation shortly after Ben’s diagnosis, which has raised funds for the Els Center of Excellence, a facility serving those on the autism spectrum and their families that opened on Monday in Jupiter, Fla.
Els also has supported the development and education of junior golfers in his native South Africa through the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation.
“I have so many fond memories of Payne and always had the greatest respect for him as a golfer and as a person, and I think this award is a wonderful way to honor his memory and the values that he stood for,” Els said. “To be considered worthy of receiving such an award makes me feel proud and very humble. It really means a lot.”
Els will receive the award Sept. 22 at the Tour Championship in Atlanta. As part of the honor, Southern Company will donate $300,000 to Els’ designated charities, Els for Autism and Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation.