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Remembering Madiba

After having met Nelson Mandela nearly 20 years ago, Ernie Els developed a close relationship with the South African statesman, phoning the former president after each golf triumph. Els and Tiger Woods were among golfers worldwide saluting Mandela, who rose from political prisoner to patriarch of a nation. He died Dec. 5 at age 95.

Els led a moment of silence at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa, where competitors wore black ribbons to remember Mandela. The start of the Nelson Mandela Championship, which is co-sanctioned on the European and Sunshine tours, was pushed up a day so as to end Saturday and not conflict with Mandela’s Dec. 15 state funeral.

“We have lost one of the iconic leaders of our time,” Els said. “He fought for what he believed in, went to prison for so many years and came out to lead our country. He was the father of our country and our continent.”

Woods, with his father Earl, was inspired after Mandela invited him into his home in South Africa in 1998. There was one scene in particular that made a lasting impression on Woods. He watched as Mandela meticulously, and perfectly, folded his daily newspaper. Woods asked him why he put so much detail into such an inconsequential task.

Woods: “He says, when you’re incarcerated for 27 years, you have to slow down time.”

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