JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's greatest ever golfer Gary Player learned with sadness of former president Nelson Mandela's death on Thursday, he said in a Facebook post.
"Nelson Mandela is one of the great heroes in my life and I believe he did more for our country than any other person in our history," Player said in the early hours of Friday morning on Facebook.
"As a proud South African, I am certain Mandela's legacy will endure in our nation and across the world as a figure of courage, value, spirit, and above all else, love."
Player said Mandela had inspired change in the nation, but not without adversity.
"I commend him for all that he did over his 95 years. He was a courageous leader who fought for all that is right, and he possessed an aura that inspired people, and our nation, to change for the better."
Player said he had called for the release of Mandela while he was imprisoned.
"When I was a young man, I stated that Madiba should be released from prison, where he spent 27 years.
"I was labelled a traitor, yet paid no mind. Time would prove that decision right. Moreover, time would prove how truly special he was after emerging from prison with no hatred or revenge. He was never broken, just empowered."
Player called on South Africa to celebrate the life of Mandela.
"Our nation enters into a time of mourning, but also a celebration of his great life and the spirit he instilled in our nation.
"May we all lovingly remember our truly remarkable former president and the father of our nation. Thank you, Madiba.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family."
Nelson Mandela's courage, forgiveness, love & hope inspired people around the world. He made me want to be a better man. RIP Tata— Gary Player (@garyplayer) December 5, 2013