Professional golfer Ernie Els, known as "The Big Easy," told reporters that he was honored to play a round of golf with President Donald Trump -- and his message for fans criticizing his decision is simply: "Go eff yourself."
Els, a two-time champion of the U.S. Open from South Africa, was called on Feb. 10 and invited to play a round of 18 holes with Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and David Trout, the club director for the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, where the round was played.
Following the Feb. 11 round, Els told the Golf Channel about the experience.
"It was one of the most special groups of people I’ve been around," he said. "I played with the queen of Malaysia, I’ve played with other presidents, but this is the most powerful guy in the whole world, and to see him in his full security detail, it’s impressive. But to play with him as president puts him in another atmosphere."
"I was all about, ‘Mr. President’ and ‘sir’ and all of that," he added. "I wanted to use that protocol because that’s what a man in that position deserves."
But Els received backlash both online and in his personal life for the round.
"A lot of my own friends were not for him," Els told reporters on Feb. 14, according to Mediaite. "They kind of needled me a little bit, saying I was a suck up. I just said: 'Go eff yourself. I played with the president, and you haven't.' You can’t please everybody.”
Twitter users also expressed disappointment in Els' decision:
- Disappointed in you, [Els]. Really disappointed.
- Why on earth would Ernie Els ... play golf with racist #Trump! So disappointing.
- Hey [Els} we see you swinging with racist, Islamaphobic, [p***y] grabbing misogynists and prioritizing dollar signs over principles!
"It was just golf and a good time," Els, who says he doesn't get involved in politics, told reporters on Feb. 14.
He added that he would have been equally honored to play golf with former President Barack Obama if he'd ever been asked to, saying, "It's the respect I have for this country that has given me so much."