The Nelson Mandela Championship in December 2013 was always going to be a special week. But Dawie van der Walt had no idea just how special it would end up being for him.
Played just a few weeks after the passing of the global icon, Van Der Walt won the Nelson Mandela Championship on a 54-hole total of 15 under par at Mount Edgecombe Country Club. It was his second victory on the European Tour in 2013 after winning the Tshwane Open earlier that year.
With his victory he also won the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, overtaking Darren Fichardt in the final tournament of the season.
It was an incredible finish to a year which began so promisingly for him when he won his first European Tour event, and which then hit rock bottom in the middle when an ankle injury combined with poor form to create the worst few months of his career.
Van Der Walt came into the Nelson Mandela Championship hoping to just find his game and play half decent golf. But at an emotional time for the country, he too found a world of inspiration in chasing a title that, finishing on the eve of the state funeral of Nelson Mandela, will always be a historic one.
"This is so small compared to what Nelson Mandela did", Van Der Walt said. "But it makes it a little more special. You can win the Nelson Mandela Championship in 10 years time, but this one will always be a special one."
He and his wife, Bobby-Jo, had spoken of how significant it would be for him to win this event at such a critical time in South Africa's history.
"We just knew it would be special for him to win it. Dawie kept telling me how much he wanted to do it", she said, recalling how she first learnt of the story of Nelson Mandela in a Louisiana school classroom and never imagining it would ever coincide with this day.
For Van Der Walt, the victory was a justification on so many levels. "Winning once is great, but to be able to win again justifies that I can do it. You feel like you belong."
It was also justification that he could pick himself up from the lowest point in his career. "I was feeling so confident after I won Tshwane Open, then I went to Europe and I struggled because my expectations were high but my game wasn't quite there. Then I went back to America and I sprained my ankle. It put my golf swing in positions I didn't like because I was compensating for it. But I had to keep pushing. What other choice do you have This is my job. There was a lot of hard work, a lot of analysing your swing, and sleepless nights and trying to figure out where I went wrong. I was finishing last in tournaments. But I just didn't give up."
It was another fairytale finish in the career of a golfer born in Paarl in the Western Cape, and who twice represented South Africa as an amateur in the Eisenhower Trophy in 2004 and 2006 before taking up a golf scholarship at Lamar University in America.
Van Der Walt turned professional in 2007 and spent most of his time on the mini tours of America, where he claimed four wins.
But it was on the fairways of The Els Club, Copperleaf in March 2013 that Van Der Walt took his biggest step forward. The big blonde golfer finished another fairytale week with a two-stroke victory.
But of more value was the belief that came with his victory. "You know, you start to doubt. You see all your friends winning and you wonder if it will ever be your turn. You start to wonder whether you have it in you. Now I know I do."