As the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing spread around the globe, many of The European Tour’s leading players, along with Chief Executive George O’Grady, paid tribute to the former South African President.
Ernie Els’s personal and moving tribute (full story here) at the Nedbank Golf Challenge summed up the feelings of everyone involved with The European Tour.
“It is a very sad day,” said four time Major champion Els. “We have lost one of the iconic leaders of our time. You cannot say anything bad about the man. He was the father of our country and our continent.
“He was our President and the man who changed our lives. It could have been so different in South Africa but he kept his head and kept everyone going forward – he was just the most amazing person I have ever met.”
O’Grady said: “Ernie’s eloquent and moving tribute to Mr Mandela speaks for everyone at The European Tour. Our condolences go to the Mandela family and indeed to all of the people of South Africa, who have lost one of the most inspirational leaders in history.
“Through our co-sanctioning partnership with the Sunshine Tour, we at The European Tour feel a specific kinship with South Africa and we will join the people of South Africa and all around the world to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of this remarkable man.”
Thomas Björn, Chairman of the Tour’s Players’ Committee, is playing alongside Els at the Gary Player Country Club.
He said: “It is a very sad day. He changed this country completely and was just one of the great men in history. His example is one we should all follow and anyone you meet who had the honour of meeting the man tells you of his aura and the sense of inspiration he gave to everyone.”
Sergio Garcia, the first round leader of the Nedbank Golf Challenge, added: “It’s sad to lose Madiba, not only for South Africa, but for the world. He was such a great man and did so many great things for humanity. He was someone to look up to. He’s passed away, but I’m sure he’s looking down on us and making sure that we stay on track.”
Three of the Tour’s South African Members also in action at Sun City added their own tributes.
Louis Oosthuizen said: “We’ve been expecting it, but it doesn’t make it any easier. The country is definitely going to mourn him, and it will always miss him.”
Branden Grace said: “It’s a sad, sad day, not only for us, but also for the whole world. He was a true inspiration. He was one of the people I would truly have loved to have met.”
Richard Sterne said: “We’ve lost our biggest hero. He went through so much, so in a way, it’s good that he’s at peace now.”
Many of the Tour’s Members took to social media platform twitter to make pay their respects. Of all the tweets sent out over the past 12 hours, the words of South African George Coetzee struck one of the most poignant notes.
“The father of our nation has closed his eyes so that the rest of the world may open theirs”.