The stars were aligned last week for the likable 24-year-old, who captured the U.S. Open title in Oakmont, Pa. Growing global acceptance of his homeland's politics leavesMr. Els poised to pluck the endorsement plums denied South Africa's other famous golfer, Gary Player.
Mr. Els already endorses Lynx golf clubs, Ashworth clothing and Titleist-Foot-Joy Worldwide's golf balls in the U.S. But he needs to cement his stature with more victories if he's to become a champion pitchman. Current endorsers are confident he will.
"We personally think Ernie is potentially one of the best golfers in the world, which is why we dealt with him when no one else had heard of him," said Rich Werschkul, president of golf apparel marketer Ashworth, Carlsbad, Calif.
For the past two years, Mr. Els has appeared in point-of-purchase and magazine ads for Ashworth. Mr. Werschkul said the company has no plans to spotlight Mr. Els' U.S. Open victory in future ads.
But Mr. Els has attracted attention recently, first with wins at the Dunlop Phoenix tournament in Japan and then the Dubai Desert Classic in United Arab Emirates, and finally with the U.S. Open sudden-death playoff win.
Lynx Golf's David Boone, VP-product development and marketing, pointed out Mr. Els is the No. 2 ranked golfer in Europe and will probably be among the top 10 in the U.S., according to the Sony Rankings.
Mr. Els' manager, Sam Feldman of Showtime Management, Johannesburg, couldn't be reached for comment.
A PGA spokesman in South Africa said the young golfer appears in ads for Nushua, an electronics marketer there.
Mr. Player is a Diners Club spokesman in his homeland, but has never reaped big U.S. deals.
Categorized by a spokesman as an "outspoken opponent of apartheid," Mr. Player nonetheless never matched the endorsement prowess of colleagues Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus, though many say his skills are on par.
Now on the Senior PGA Tour, Mr. Player, 58, currently endorses Franklin Quest calendars, Head Sports golf shoes and Champion Glove Manufacturing Co. golf gloves in the U.S.