Thomas Aiken lifted his maiden Tour title at the Open de España – a tournament overcome with emotion after the sad passing of arguably Europe’s most popular golfer of all time, Seve Ballesteros.
The 27-year-old held off the challenge of Dane Anders Hansen to win by two shots at Real Club de Golf El Prat in Barcelona and become the fifth South African to win on the European Tour this season.
And understandably Aiken, who hasn't lifted a club in weeks on a holiday in the Caribbean, dedicated the victory to Ballesteros.
“It’s been a sad week,” he said. “I definitely want to dedicate this win to him with it being his home Open and what he gave to his home fans and to golf.
“He was everything to the game of golf and I am happy to have won for him - any of us would have won for him.
“I remember Seve, how he enjoyed life and how he enjoyed the game. He has been an inspiration for me and has kept me working hard.”
The Johannesburg-born golfer finished with a 10-under total of 278 to win the €333,000 first prize.
After a minute-long silence and round of applause before Saturday’s third round, there was a lot of emotion in the air.
Aiken resumed the final day the way he ended it – two clear of the chasing pack. He extended it to four with birdies at two and six.
He added another at the short 11th but dropped it on 13 before making amends with a further birdie putt just three strokes later.
Aiken three-putted the 15th and the lead was back to three, but he held on for victory.
“My first European Tour win has not been an easy week, very emotional,” he continued.
“I don’t think it’s quite hit home yet,” he added. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long, long time and I’ve been knocking on the door. I’m ecstatic.”
A home win would have been more than welcome at the Spanish Open – coincidentally Ballesteros’ last win as a professional – and Pablo Larrazabal put up a good fight, finishing in a tie for third.
Open de España Final Leaderboard
-10 T Aiken (SA)
-8 A Hansen (Den)
-7 S Jamieson (Sco); P Larrazabal (Spa)
-6 S Dyson (Eng); G Havret (Fra); D Horsey (Eng); P Lawrie (Sco); P Price (Wal); R Wattel (Fra)