Aiken targets career best

Thomas Aiken said that a victory at this week’s Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban would be the highlight of his career.

The start of the second staging of the European Tour event has been moved forward a day to Wednesday to ensure the final round does not clash with the funeral of former South African president Nelson Mandela.

Aiken, who hails from Johannesburg, said that Mandela was an source of real inspiration for him and said that it would be something special to have his name feature on a trophy that honours the legendary statesman.

“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.

“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.”

Aiken’s sentiments were shared by fellow South African Branden Grace who is one of the favourites to lift the trophy.

Grace has not had it all his way this year after winning no less than five tournaments in 2012 and hopes that he would be inspired by Madiba.

“It’s kind of bittersweet to be playing in the Nelson Mandela Championship just a week after Madiba’s death,” said the 25-year-old.

“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.”