SA golf champion salutes Mandela

Cape Town, South Africa (PANA) - South Africa's Ernie Els, defending British Open golf champion who will attempt to retain his trophy when the tournament starts at Muirfield, Scotland, on Thursday, has paid a glowing tribute to global icon Nelson Mendela who celebrates his 95th birthday on Thursday.

Addressing the media following a practice round on Tuesday, Els said Mandela has played a massive role in South Africa’s post-apartheid sporting successes.

Els and Mandela have enjoyed a warm relationship over the years.

When the golfing giant, who is nicknamed “The Big Easy,” won his first Major tournament, the US Open, just two months after South Africa's historic April 1994 elections, the global statesman was one of the first to call and offer his congratulations.

And when Els won the British Open at Royal Lytham last year, the gentle giant paid a moving tribute to Mandela.

Acknowledging that he had been part of a generation of millions of South Africans who had grown up in the Apartheid era, and then endured the painful transition to democracy, Els said: “I just felt he's been so important for us being where we are today as a nation and as sports people.”

World number one Tiger Woods, who is also a former British Open champion, told reporters that he was invited to visit Mandela at his Johannesburg home in 1998 and he still gets “chills” thinking about his presence and energy.

Mandela remains in a critical but stable condition at a Pretoria hospital where he has been treated for a recurring lung infection for the past month.
-0- PANA CU/SEG 16July2013

17 july 2013 09:38:27

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