Ernie Els stated at the official launch of the Big Easy restaurant in Durban on Wednesday that he has plans to launch a branch of his American-based Centre for Excellence for children with autism in the city.

Durban - Durban was likely to get a branch of Ernie Els’s American-based Centre for Excellence for children with autism, the iconic golfing star said on Wednesday.

Els’s son, Ben, born with autism, and Els and his wife, Liezl, have spearheaded the fundraising for the game-changing $35 million (R210m) Centre of Excellence in Florida.

Fundraising from golfing events had also taken place in South Africa for a similar centre for some three years, Els said on Wednesday before officially launching his Big Easy restaurant at the Hilton Hotel.

The plan was to first start a school in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

It would be a satellite of the American Centre of Excellence, which opened in August.

“We have got to get the right site and maybe renovate an old house or build a school from scratch.

“We are going to need a couple of schools as this (autism) is becoming big.” And that could include Durban, he said.

The American centre was one-of-a-kind and included several features to aid research.

It also included a small par-3 golf course, which had just been finished, he said.

Earlier, Els posed for pictures with Chris Beukes, who won the inaugural Hilton Golf Classic last year, held to raise funds for Els’s South African autism project.

Els welcomed some of his own heroes to Wednesday night’s event, singling out rugby legends John Smit, Butch James and Stefan Terblanche.

He told the other local movers and shakers that: “I am golf and I got into the wine business by accident… and that has morphed into the restaurant.”

The Ernie Els Wines started about 16 years ago and his winemaster and maker, Louis Strydom, was on hand to explain how it all started and how the business expanded.

Daily News