Character. Charity. Sportsmanship.

As the South's premier energy provider, we touch millions of lives every day — and we are committed to giving back to the communities we serve. That's why Southern Company is honored to support the Payne Stewart Award, presented annually to the player who best exemplifies the values of character, charity and sportsmanship. The past winners have all distinguished themselves through their respect for the game, the TOUR's tradition of charity and their ability to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

The award honors the memory of Stewart, an 11-time PGA TOUR winner and World Golf Hall of Fame member who died tragically during the week of the TOUR Championship in 1999. Southern Company, the "Official Energy Company of the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour," was the TOUR Championship sponsor the year of Stewart's passing. The PGA TOUR created the Payne Stewart Award in his honor, and Southern Company has supported the annual presentation since its inception.

In presenting the Payne Stewart Award, Southern Company contributes each year to three charities, including Payne and his wife Tracy Stewart's primary charity, The Stewart Family Foundation, as well as The First Tee of the Ozarks — located in Stewart's native Missouri — and a charity designated by the recipient.

2015 Recipient: Ernie Els

Ernie Els

Southern Company is proud to join the PGA TOUR in recognizing Ernie Els as the 2015 recipient of the Payne Stewart Award.

Els is a four-time major champion and a World Golf Hall of Famer. He grew up in South Africa where he was the youngest player to ever win the South African Amateur at the age of 16. He also is the only player to win six of eight South African tour events in one year. Along with being a major champion, Els is known for his off-the-course philanthropy.

Els began the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation to identify talented young South Africans predominantly from families of limited resources and provide them with educational and life-skill assistance and playing opportunities in order to produce well-rounded, educated young golfers. In 2009, he and his wife also established the Els for Autism Foundation in honor of their son Ben who was diagnosed with autism. Els used his high-profile platform to help raise awareness and to build a world-class Center of Excellence to impact those on the spectrum and their families. On August 17, the first Els Center of Excellence - a Lower School and Auditorium Building - opened in Jupiter, Florida. It will serve the local, national and international autism communities.

Els has chosen to support both of the causes close to his heart to receive the designated portion of the Payne Stewart Award Grant.