Kasumigaseki Country Club – the Tokyo 2020 golf tournament – was requisitioned during the war, and then recorded two memorable victories in Japanese golf history.
Kasumigaseki is in the Saitama district, about an hour’s drive from central Tokyo. This place is one of the few oldest golf clubs in Japan, in which the East course is tasked with organizing the Olympic medal contest 2020.
The East Court opened in 1929, originally designed by five locals. After two years of operation, the yard was renovated for the first time by British architect – CH Alison. In 1932, Kasumigaseki added a West court and became the first 36-hole complex in Japan.
Not long after the expansion, the East Court greens were severely damaged in a snowstorm. Therefore, the management board decided to make two types of greens for both courses to cope with the weather and prolong the service life – Korai grass green for warm weather, and bent grass for cold weather.
In 1940, the Japanese government asked people to stop playing golf because of World War II. At that time, a part of the West yard was requisitioned by the army of this country. The yard owners had to sell several holes to cover wartime operating costs. The land they sold turned into agricultural land. In 1945, Kasumigaseki had to close down. Later that year, the field returned to the US Air Force.
The following year, each court in Kasumigaseki was restored nine holes. In 1950, the owner of the yard bought the land that was sold during the war. The US Army ended its seven-year takeover in 1952. Since then, the East Court has been restored to its original 18 holes. The West Courtyard, which was renewed, was inaugurated in 1954.
In 2014, the famous architect Tom Fazio received the task of overhauling the East courtyard. From there, Kasumigaseki pointed to an improved bent grass green and Zoysia for the fairway.
Today’s golf world all recognize Kasumigaseki as the starting place for the later boom of Japanese golf, through hosting the 1957 Canada Cup – the first prestigious international golf event to Asia. The tournament brings together 30 teams, with two national representatives each, competing individually and as a team in a 72-hole stroke play format. Particularly for the team content, the total achievements of two members through four rounds are taken to determine the final rank.
That year, the US team went to Japan with Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret as the defending champion. Both won a total of 10 majors. However, they could not defeat Torakichi Nakamura – Koichi Ono. Although five strokes behind after the first day, the home pair won the team event at -19 points (557 strokes total), while the American star pair finished second, nine strokes away. Nakamura finished first, seven strokes ahead of Snead, Gary Player.
Indigenous media heavily covered the tournament. On the closing day, nearly 12,000 Japanese spectators entered Kasumigaseki to watch the home team play.
Later, Snead became a legend, with Tiger Woods holding a record of 82 PGA Tour titles and Player became a world golf monument with 24 US championship championships, including nine majors.
After the Canada Cup, Kasumigaseki hosted many events in the professional male and female arena in the country. In 2010, this place recorded the first prestigious amateur victory in the career of Hideki Matsuyama – the new Masters champion today. That year, the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship returned to Kasumigaseki for the first time, and Matsuyama entered the competition through a wildcard for the host.
And that opportunity turned into a launching pad for Matsuyama. He won on the West court by five strokes, then got a ticket to the famous Masters next year. In the exclusive major of the Augusta National par72, Matsuyama took the “Best Amateur Golfer” award, mainly thanks to 68 strokes in the penultimate round.
“I will never forget that round. It gave me confidence in top golf,” Matsuyama recalled the past in a media conference after the Masters 2021 coronation ceremony in April. He won this major at -10.
Golf in Tokyo 2020 will start from the morning of July 29 on the East Kasumigaseki course, in which the host player Rikuya Hoshino is honored to kick off the opening ball at 7:30 local time, and the trump card Matsuyama starts 70 minutes later. The list of medal contests includes 120 competitors, divided equally between men and women.
Currently, Japan is only behind the US in terms of infrastructure and golf market size. They have 3,140 courts – 2021 statistics from Royal & Ancient (R&A), with total sales of more than 2 billion USD, according to Golf Digest. Meanwhile, joint research from Golf DataTech and Yano Research Institute said that Japan accounts for 22% of the world golf economy.
Quoc Huy (follow PGA Tour)
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