Thomas Aiken says victory at Nelson Mandela Championship would be proudest moment

Last Updated: 10/12/13 2:24pm

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Thomas Aiken: Hoping to land the Nelson Mandela Championship this week

Thomas Aiken: Hoping to land the Nelson Mandela Championship this week

Sky Bet

Thomas Aiken has admitted that winning this week's Nelson Mandela Championship would eclipse anything else he has managed in golf.

The European Tour event in South Africa will inevitably carry great poignancy given the events of the last few days.

The start of the second staging of the tournament has been moved forward a day to Wednesday in order that the final round does not clash with the former South African president's state funeral on Sunday.

Johannesburg native Aiken has acknowledged that Mandela was an source of real inspiration for him and makes no secret of the fact he would to love to add the title of a tournament bearing the legendary stateman's name to his resume.

"It's a very emotional week," he told reporters. "He has touched everyone's heart in some way or the other and how fortunate are we as professionals to be playing a tournament named after him in the week that he passed on?

"I've played in a few Nelson Mandela Invitational events and never got to meet Madiba. Now I'm playing in the Nelson Mandela Championship and it's a great honour to be participating in an event that hopes to continue his legacy of assisting children.

"I'm a South African and Mandela is very dear to me as he was someone we all could look up to.

Inspiration

"How nice it would be if we could do a little of what he did and knit everyone together - like we are now all in sorrow - and make this country a better place to live in.

Thomas Bjorn has said it has been an emotional week for South Africa and has taken inspiration in his win during the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

"That, to me, would be the best thing to have on my CV - a win at the Nelson Mandela Championship. Wouldn't that be great?"

Aiken's sentiments were echoed by compatriot Branden Grace who heads the betting for this week's event.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given a stunning 2012 campaign that yielded five wins, the 25-year-old has found things rather tougher this season but is hoping to be inspired by Mandela on home soil.

"It's kind of bittersweet to be playing in the Nelson Mandela Championship just a week after Madiba's death," said Grace.

"It's nice to be able to go and support something like that and the great cause that it supports. It's not a happy time in South Africa, so it's nice to be able to be in a position where I can go and support the tournament."

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