Tiger Woods Idol Nelson Mandela Passes Away at 95

South African hero Nelson Mandela, a staunch opponent of apartheid and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, passed away on Thursday. He was 95. 

Mandela had spent much of the past three months in a Pretoria hospital with a recurring lung infection, but his legacy will endure for centuries. His opposition of apartheid led to his imprisonment for 27 years, but he later became South Africa’s first black president.

And he was a role model for golf’s greatest superstar, Tiger Woods, who learned of Mandela’s passing after the first round of his charity tournament, the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge.

“It’s sad for everyone who got a chance to not only meet him, but I’ve been influenced by him,” Woods said Thursday. “I got a chance to meet him with my father back in ’98. He invited us to his home, and it was one of the inspiring times I’ve ever had in my life.”

Woods recalled his 1998 visit this past summer when asked about Mandela’s 95th birthday.

“It still gives me chills to this day, thinking about it,” Woods said over the summer. “A gentleman asked us to go into this side room … And we walked in the room and my dad and I were just kind of looking around. And I said, ‘Dad, do you feel that?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, it feels different in this room.’ And it was just like a different energy in the room.

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“We just looked at each other and just shrugged our shoulders. And maybe, I’m guessing probably 30 seconds later, I heard some movement behind me and it was President Mandela folding up the paper. And it was pretty amazing. The energy that he has, that he exudes, is unlike any person I’ve ever met.”

Woods returned to South Africa for the 2003 Presidents Cup, during which Mandela met with Woods, Ernie Els and the rest of the players, and attended the opening ceremony.

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 More than a decade after his first meeting, Woods still felt the impact.

 
He was an inspiration to many more as well. Among the countless charitable deeds that Mandela performed was the Nelson Mandela Invitational golf tournament, which ran from 2000-06 and was hosted by former pro Gary Player. The event benefited the Children’s Fund and the Player Foundation, and is now the Gary Player Invitational.

 
A new event bearing Mandela’s name popped up in 2012, the Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa. It is co-sanctioned by the European and Sunshine Tours, and is scheduled for next week at Durban’s Mount Edgecombe Country Club. It will start a day earlier this year, going from Wednesday, Dec. 11 to Saturday, Dec. 14 so that players, fans and organizers can take part in the national period of mourning for the passing of Mandela, which will take place Dec. 15.

Mandela will be remembered fondly by millions, including the Back9Network, which strives for inclusion and equality. Few fought that battle better than Mandela.

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