Matsuyama’s Masters victory more than just a win on the course

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AP

“Hideki Matsuyama, of Japan, celebrates after winning the Masters golf tournament on Sunday, April 11, 2021, in Augusta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)”

Kyle Kelly, Sports Editor

No one was catching Hideki Matsuyama.

After moving day on Saturday, April 12, at The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, Matsuyama — a native of Ehime, Japan — held a four-stroke lead. All he had to do was play a respectable round of golf, and the green jacket was his. 

Even though he found the water on hole 15 and gave Xander Schauffle a chance, Matsuyama remained calm, cool and collected and shot +1 on the day to win the trophy.

This year’s Masters was not like any other. Matsuyama’s victory marked the first time a Japanese golfer had won a major tournament. The Professional Golf Association has existed since 1929, yet not one competitor from Japan has donned the green jacket. 

Throughout the four-day tournament, 23 different countries were represented. Seven different countries made up the top 10 and showed the great international play that golf presents. Matsuyama’s victory reached a whole new world.

Golf is becoming less popular in Japan. Japanese Hall of Fame golfer Isao Akoi told the National Golf Foundation that just 6.7 million people played golf in 2017 — only 5% of the population. That same year, 23.8 million Americans hit the links — 7.3% of the number of people in the United States. The NGF estimated that 101 million people in the United States “played golf (on-course or off-course), watched the sport or read about it in 2020.” 

It certainly helps that in the United States, golf is accessible. The United States provides more than 16,000 golf courses and 14,000 golf facilities, per the NGF, whereas in Japan there are only 2,500 golf courses, according to top100golfcourses.com

Matsuyama’s victory isn’t just a victory for Japan — it’s a victory for the game of golf. With golf being one of the games to be held at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games (which is set for this summer), it is another opportunity for the game to grow in the country and worldwide. 

The diversity of countries represented on the PGA Tour is what makes the sport unique. Spectators have the opportunity to root for their favorite golfers and players from their native countries. In my opinion, there is no such melting pot in any other American sport. 

With Matsuyama’s win expanding the interest of golf in Japan, that melting pot will expand and in doing so, will grow the game of golf.