24 May Familiar face carries Ernie to Wentworth Pro-Am win
Wentworth veteran Ernie Els rolled back the years on Wednesday with a dominant Pro-Am winning display on the eve of the BMW PGA Championship. The South African, who has won seven World Match Play titles round the West Course but is yet to taste glory at this event, posted an afternoon total of 24 under par alongside his Wentworth team of Anshu Jain, Nigel Keen and Galib Virani.
Those following this group would also have been surprised to see long-time Wentworth resident, and record holder for the most European Tour starts at over 700, Sam Torrance caddying for the Big Easy en route to Pro-Am glory.
Their impressive total saw the group overhaul morning pace setter Paul Casey, who won the World Match Play here in 2006, and got his preparations off to the perfect start with a 23 under par romp in the morning half of the draw. However his BMW team would end up falling one stroke shy of Els and co. en route to a second place finish.
Also flying high in the morning was three time 2012 victor Branden Grace who looked on good form alongside his team comprising of horse racing’s AP McCoy, Mick Fitzgerald and Carl Llewellyn, eventually finishing fourth.
One of the day’s marquee pairings though came in the form of the team captained by last week’s runner up, Graeme McDowell. Accompanied by BBC Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans, TV Presenter Vernon Kaye and Celebrity Chef Jason Atherton, the 2010 US Open Champion proved his Major credentials from the outset as he eagled the 18th, their first, en route to a 21 under par total and third place.
His amateur partners were clearly impressed, and it was just one example of a great day out.
“The day was amazing,” exclaimed a satisfied Chris Evans. “Graeme was an absolute legend, so kind and generous to us. He read everyone’s putts and gave us help with our yardages, and I have to say, he played brilliantly.
“All our mates were caddying for us, it is one of those days you can’t buy. The course is amazing, I had a great day!”
Sentiments that were no doubt echoed by the majority of the amateurs taking to the West Course during the event, but Evans’ playing partner Vernon Kay was quick to echo his teammate’s praise.
“We had a lot of fun. Great weather, great company, you couldn’t really ask for anything better,” agreed Kaye. “I’ve played the course several times and it doesn’t seem to make a difference, but it was great getting some tips from Graeme and Chris with his good banter. It was quality.”
Other notables near the top of the board were Sweden’s Alex Noren who led his BMW team to fourth place at 16 under par, while Jeev Milkha Singh captained his group to fifth place one shot further back.
England’s Tom Lewis also looked good en route to a 14 under par total alongside the team of Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello, while defending BMW PGA Champion Luke Donald posted 13 under, a shot clear of World Number One Rory McIlroy.