The 2019 Els Pro-Am for Autism

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Photos / Benjamin Rusnak

Professional golfer Graeme McDowell teeing off on the first hole at Old Palm watched by Fox News’ Brett Baier.

2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell smiled as he selected a La Flor Dominicana Coronado Toro from the table near the first tee at the Old Palm Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He then pulled out his pilot, smashed a shot like a howitzer in the fairway, then ignited.

You can’t fault him for smoking a cigar. After all, McDowell was associated with a quartet of ardent cigar aficionados. In his group were Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado, radio star Rush Limbaugh, Fox News presenter Brett Baier and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus, who has won 18 majors, put down a putt at Els for Autism Pro-Am.

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus, who has won 18 majors, put down a putt at Els for Autism Pro-Am.

Scenes like this took place all over the golf course on Monday during the 11th annual Els for Autism Pro-Am, which raised $ 1,020,000. In the 11-year history of the event, created by Shanken and professional golfer Ernie Els, around $ 11 million has been raised.

Twenty-one teams played yesterday, each paired with a top golfer. In addition to Els (a quadruple major winner) and McDowell, there was Jack Nicklaus, who won 18 majors, more than any other player; Branden Grace; Cameron Tringale; CT Pan; Cristie Kerr; KJ Choi; Marc Leishman; Luc Donald; Louis Oosthuizen; Chase Koepka; Anirban Lahiri; Charl Schwartzel; Li Haotong; Morgan Hoffmann; Jessica Korda; Kiradech Aphibarnrat; Ian Baker-Finch; Nick Price and Abraham Ancer.

Marvin R. Shanken (center) led the team of Rudolph W. Giuliani, former mayor of New York;  radio star Rush Limbaugh;  2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell professional golfer;  and Fox News presenter Bret Baier.

Marvin R. Shanken (center) led the team of Rudolph W. Giuliani, former mayor of New York; radio star Rush Limbaugh; 2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell professional golfer; and Fox News presenter Bret Baier.

The money raised was used to develop the Els Center of Excellence, an education center in Jupiter, Florida. “We think this is a game-changer in the autism world,” Els said at the couples dinner on Sunday night.

Els and Shanken pointed out that there is a lot more work to be done. “We’ve already invested $ 35 million in this campus,” Shanken said at the dinner, “and another $ 15 million is getting us to the top.” Els said: “We have a long way to go.”

The winning team, along with LPGA star Jessica Korda, shot 55. Their playing partners are Steve Collis, Steve Peck and Jerry DeMuro.

The winning team, along with LPGA star Jessica Korda, shot 55. Their playing partners are Steve Collis, Steve Peck and Jerry DeMuro.

Nicklaus took the mike on Sunday to talk about his longtime support for the event. “We see what’s going on, we see the kids – we think you have the right thing to do. Congratulations. I look forward to tomorrow.

The teams consisted of Bacardi, Breakthru Beverage Group, Brown-Forman, Diageo, Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, Fetzer Vineyards, Jackson Family Wines, M. Shanken Communications Inc., Michael Gelband, Moët Hennessy USA, Norman Eig, Pernod Ricard, Republic National, SAP, Sebonack Golf Club, Southern Glazer’s, Stonehage, Terlato Wines and Young’s Market Co.

Ernie Els, showing off the smooth swing that has earned him the nickname

Ernie Els, showing off the smooth swing that earned him the nickname “The Big Easy”, attempting a million dollar hole.

The event was won by the team of LPGA pro Jessica Korda, SAP’s Steve Peck, Jerry DeMuro and Steve Collis.

Cigar and drink stations were located throughout the Pro-Am course, keeping a festive atmosphere throughout the day. Drinks were supplied by Belvedere Vodka, Glenlivet and Gray Goose, and cigars were supplied by Alec Bradley, EPC Cigars, La Flor Dominicana, My Father Cigars and Oliva. Bobby Jones donated shirts. Arturo Fuente and Altadis USA donated cigars for Sunday night’s dinner.

The event ended with a hole-in-one contest, where each pro shot on the 19th hole of Old Palm, a delicate green defended by water. The event was sponsored by Wine Australia, and a successful shot would have donated $ 1 million to the charity. No one hit the hole this time around, although Schwartzel came closest, with a shot that settled 5 feet from the cup.


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