Els discloses son has autism, seeks attention for research

"I was surprised to hear about Ernie," Kresge said. "In a way, though, we need someone of that stature to get some notice to this problem that we all have. There's so many people like that out there, and so little is being done. If they can find cures for cancer, surely they can find a cure for autism.

"Hopefully, with Ernie's notoriety, we can get to the bottom of this."

Autism is now part of Els' life.

Ben was born in October 2002, after a season in which Els captured his third major at the British Open and won the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, his primary residence.

When they discovered he was autistic, Els did not share this publicly through some of his toughest years in golf — having a chance to win all four majors in 2004 and coming away empty; a tubing accident that tore knee ligaments and ended his season in July; and losing more duels with Tiger Woods, most recently at the Dubai Desert Classic.

"We've been taking our time and trying to assess what we need to do, what we want to do," Els said. "We're doing a lot for Ben. But there are a lot of kids like him out there, and worse than him. We're in a fortunate position where money is not a real problem for our family. We can get Ben the right help. Some people are not in the same position. We'd like to raise money for the poor.

"And I'd like to know why it's happening," he said. "It's gone crazy the last couple of years. It's an epidemic."

Els said he was stunned to learn from Autism Speaks that 1 in 150 children are diagnosed with autism, the rate even higher for boys. Wright said while not all countries are forthcoming with statistics, Britain has even higher rates.

Before speaking publicly, Els wanted to make sure his family was comfortable — not only his wife, but his daughter, best known in the United States for her PGA Tour commercial in which Els plays a math teacher adding the scores on a golf card, and Samantha (Sarah in the commercial) answers the question in her Afrikaans accent — "3 under paw."

"Samantha, she's been unbelievable with Ben," Els said. "She's like a mother figure, not a sister figure. I wanted her to feel comfortable, because obviously, this is going to get attention. We just feel more ready to deal with it now."

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