Ernie Els: American Family Insurance Champion

by | Jun 10, 2024 | Pro News

Ernie Els Wins for the Second Time in as Many Weeks on The PGA TOUR Champions

Ernie Els has won on the PGA TOUR Champions in back-to-back weeks, capping off a red-hot stretch by claiming the American Family Insurance Championship trophy.

The four-time major winner began Sunday co-leading with Steve Stricker at 9 under par, and both finished regulation at minus 12.

Stricker, who was in position to successfully defend last year’s title here, uncharacteristically missed a three-footer right after the 54-year-old South African sank his four-foot par putt on the 18th, which also served as the first playoff hole.

“I feel a lot better with my putting. Playing with Steve Stricker, you feel like you don’t putt very well, Els said. “I know I’m putting well; I’m striking it good; I’m just hanging in there and trying to get my chances where they come.”

This is Els’ fifth career PGA TOUR Champions title with number four coming just last week in Des Moines at the Principal Charity Classic.

“I think Steve will concur these are the best greens we play on tour, the quickest. And playing in this wind today was very challenging. I was just trying to kind of keep my wits with me,” added Els.

Fans were also treated to a special appearance by Jordan Love.  The Green Bay Packers quarterback graciously posed for photos with the gallery after private time with a young American Family Children’s Hospital patient.

Since the tournament’s debut 8 years ago, it has generated more than $17 million for charity, with half going to the hospital.

Packers QB Jordan Love visits with young Titus Nee and his family

As we stood overlooking the gallery midway through payday, Tournament Director Nate Pokrass reflected on this University Ridge finale and admitted much anticipation about American Family Insurance moving to TPC Wisconsin in 2025.

“University Ridge is an outstanding venue; they’ve been an amazing host every year. This golf course has gotten better and better. In fact, the PGA TOUR agronomy team says this is the best it has been since 2016.”

Pokrass and I could not help but ponder the strong possibility of Stricker holding off Els and, of course, conjure up some conversation about his going for a three-peat—a feat he successfully pulled off in 2011 for this third consecutive John Deere Classic title while competing on the PGA TOUR.

“It sure seemed to be trending that way, and we know the John Deere Classic has almost been a second home to Steve during his career, and the fans love him there just as much as here.”

Stricker has led the more than $20 million transformation at what’s now known as TPC Wisconsin. The former Cherokee Country Club, founded in 1962 as Cherokee Marsh, was rebranded two years ago and re-opened in August of 2023 as the 30th TPC Network Golf Club.

“We’re driven to be the premier destination of the PGA TOUR Champions, and hosting it at a TPC venue is a continuation of that commitment,” added Pokrass.

Ernie Els photo courtesy of American Family Insurance
Jordan Love photo courtesy of George McNeilly


About the Author

<a href="" target="_self">George McNeilly</a>

George McNeilly

George McNeilly is an award-winning multimedia broadcaster, producer and writer with a journalism background that has spanned the globe from four Olympics, 17 Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Finals, Major College Football, Basketball and Professional Golf. A former Senior ESPN executive, George teaches Sports Business at Full Sail University and is managing partner of McNeilly Communications.