dramatic chase to win the 2014 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit has earned him a
debut appearance in this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Aiken went into the
final tournament of the 2014 season trailing Order of Merit leader Danie van
Tonder. But a top five finish in the South African Open saw him overtake Van
Tonder and claim the prize that secured him a place in a tournament he has
watched since he was seven years old.
“Winning the Order of Merit is
something I’ve been looking forward to since I started playing on the Sunshine
Tour in 2002. I’ve been close before and it’s nice to finally get it under the
belt,” said Aiken, well aware of the rewards he would reap from his
“Winning the money-list is obviously a feat because this is
one of the five main Tours in the world. But it also comes with substantial
perks that can make your career – I’m into the British Open, the Memorial,
three World Golf Championship events and the Nedbank Golf Challenge, which I’ve
dreamed about playing in since I was a kid in the early 90s.”
Aiken does indeed have fond memories of Sun City that
stretch beyond the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
It was here where he made his professional debut in 2002,
playing in the Dimension Data Pro-Am. And he has never forgotten this.
After winning the 2014 Africa Open for this third European
Tour title, Aiken made the decision not to skip the following week’s Dimension
Data Pro-Am and enjoy the fruits of his labours.
“They gave me my
first professional invite in 2002. I haven’t missed one since,” he said of his
decision to play.
Following a stellar
amateur career, Aiken at first struggled to make an impact as a professional.
After time spent on
the European Challenge tour, he returned to the Sunshine Tour in 2004 and
immediately felt more relaxed being at home again. It showed in his three
victories that year.
In 2011 he broke through
on the European Tour with a win in the Open de Espana. In 2013 he added the
Avantha Masters, and then came perhaps the sweetest of all of his European Tour
victories when he won the African Open in East London in 2014.
“I’ve been waiting
for this for a long time,” he said. “I’ve won overseas but there is nothing
like winning in front of your home crowd. It’s so nice to finally get one for
you guys and thank you for all your support of my career.”
Aiken’s commitment to
South African golf includes his support of a junior tournament on the popular
Glacier Junior Series, and he speaks passionately about this being the factory
for the future talent of the game in this country.
“Players such as myself,
Charl (Schwartzel) and Louis (Oosthuizen) were very fortunate when we were
young in that we had a great junior programme in place and could compete
against each other on a regular basis.
“Without competition you
can’t improve, and you need that experience under pressure to become a better
golfer. Playing in those junior events, we could push each other to the next
“It’s important for our
juniors to have a platform where they can compete and it’s vital for our golf
so that we can keep producing top golfers on the international stage. It’s great to be able to give back to a
system that played such a big part in my success as a golfer.”
Born: July 16, 1983.
Turned pro: 2002.
Family: Wife – Kate.
Special interests: All sports, movies.
Career highlights: Won three times on the Sunshine Tour in
2004. He continued to win regularly on his home circuit before making his
international breakthrough with a victory in the 2011 Open de Espana on the
European Tour. Finished tied eighth in the 2009 Open and tied seventh in the
2012 Open. Has won 11 times as a professional.
2015 highlights: Another consistent season for him on the
European Tour with a top finish of fourth in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
2015 Majors: The
Masters – DNP. The US Open – T25. The Open – 80. The PGA Championship – DNP.
NGC record: Debut.