JUPITER, Fla - You probably know him for the easy golf swing that brought him two U.S. Open and British Open championships, but now Ernie Els also will be known for something else.
"It's unbelievable, it's a dream come true," he said Monday at a construction site in Jupiter.
He and his wife Liezl were at the groundbreaking ceremony where they showed the plans for the Els Center for Excellence. It will be a first-of-its-kind school featuring classrooms, athletic facilities and medical programs for those from ages three to 21 on the autism spectrum
"When our son was diagnosed and when we moved here, it became evident there was a huge gap we need to fill. For us to be able to be a small contribution to that, to help the kids and help the future is amazing," said Liezl.
Ben is their 12-year-old son who was diagnosed with autism when he was four. Through him, they saw the need for more facilities.
"We never thought our lives would go this way. Thanks to Ben we are where we are today," said Els.
With his golf connections leading the way, they've raised $15 million of the $30 million it will cost to build the entire facility.
They expect to have the first stage open in 2015 for younger students. It will have room for 300, but they're also looking to connect with the international autism community.
"We're hoping we can reach people in far away places where there aren't facilities like these, and share information with parents and teachers and help them teach their kids in their communities," said Liezl.
Getting this far is a milestone, but how does it compare with playing on the PGA tour?
"This is much more fun. This is hard work, but it's fun," said Els with a laugh.
Els also said he plans to spend much more time at the facility when his playing days are over.