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Ernie Els Awards 'The Els Cup'
November 1, 2011

After six months of competition, on and off the course, the Highest Fundraising Team of the Els for Autism Golf Challenge, and the inaugural winners of The Els Cup, were announced on October 24 th at the Grand Finale in Las Vegas as Mark White and Justin Marcus.

The announcement was made by World Golf Hall of Famer and autism ambassador, Ernie Els, at a glamorous awards ceremony sponsored by SAP that saw Planet Hollywood's pool deck transformed into a spectacular South African themed Braai (BBQ) - complete with African drummers and fire-eaters.

Team Captain Mark White, a senior executive at SAP; one of the Golf Challenge's major sponsors, and his partner Justin Marcus topped the tournament's Donation Leaderboard with an incredible $50,000+ and led the fundraising of an event series that ultimately raised over $1.7million thanks to 1,700 competitors and 8,500 donors.

White and Marcus, who were one of no less than 51 teams that qualified for the Grand Finale by raising over $10,000, were awarded sets of customized golf clubs courtesy of one of the Challenge's Organizing Sponsors Callaway and were the inaugural recipients of 'The Els Cup,' in recognition of their outstanding charitable achievements.

White commented: "It has been an absolute privilege to be involved in the inaugural Els for Autism Golf Challenge and part of helping Ernie achieve his goal to help kids on the spectrum receive the best treatment possible.  Justin and I both have competitive spirits and whilst we couldn't guarantee our performance on the golf course I was determined, despite stiff competition, to top the Donation Leaderboard."

Ernie Els, whose 9-year old son Ben is severely touched by autism, and who set up the Els for Autism Foundation in 2009 with his wife Liezl, commented:

"I want to congratulate and thank Mark and Justin for leading the way on the fundraising front for the 2011 Golf Challenge. You guys took the Donation Leaderboard by storm this year and have set the bar high for the 2012 series. The number of high fundraisers we had in our first year of the Challenge really blew us away - we literally had to find a second Grand Finale course to host them all!"

Els added:

"The Grand Finale was a great opportunity for myself and Liezl to meet and personally thank so many of the people that helped make the Challenge such a success this year. It was like a coming out party for the autism community; we became family in 48 hours, sharing stories of our children and celebrating a common goal to get best possible treatment to all children on the spectrum."

At the same awards ceremony Els announced the winners of the three Grand Finale golf tournaments hosted that day at TPC Summerlin, Rio Secco GC and Cascata GC as well as the winners of the Bonus Pro Am Shoot Out.

The winning teams from each course walked away with a ten-day trip of a lifetime to Els' native South Africa, courtesy of Mantis and South African Airways. Other big prizes handed out included trips to South America, England and Orlando.

Finalists not only experienced tournament golf at three of the areas most prestigious courses and fabulous parties hosted by Ernie Els and Organizing Sponsor SAP, but they also had the opportunity to see Ernie and some of his friends from the PGA TOUR in action. Finalists playing Rio Secco and Cascata were treated to Pro clinics with Ernie Els, Dustin Johnson, Rich Beem, Dean Wilson and Bob May with commentary by leading golf instructors Butch and Claude Harmon.

Teams playing at TPC Summerlin got their share of Pro action thanks to a Pro Am Shoot Out which saw the top five finishing teams from TPC Summerlin team up with the Pros in a four-hole bonus knock-out competition that was filmed by the PGA TOUR and watched by sponsors, guests and members of the public.

Organizing Sponsors for the Els for Autism Golf Challenge included SAP, Callaway, RBC and Wine Spectator. These companies were absolutely critical in the delivery of this innovative series of fundraising events.

The Challenge's highly valued Contributing Sponsors included Mantis, Preferred Golf, Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, IRISH LINKS, Preferred Safaris and Adventures, TPC, South African Airways, Service Central, Nexterra, Expand A Sign, Ralph Lauren, Ketel One Vodka, Maverick Aviation Group, I-ONICS and Vitamin Water.

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