Hideki Matsuyama, from Japan, poses in a green jacket after winning the Masters golf championship Sunday, April 11, 2021, in Augusta, Georgia.
Source: AP Photo / David J. Phillip
On April 11, the last Sunday of the 2021 Golf Masters Tournament, Hideki Matsuyama shot 10 strokes under par at Augusta National Golf Course to win his first blue jacket. The Masters Tournament prides itself on being one of the largest, boasting one of the most exclusively attended golf tournaments and attracting the most international players of any golf competition. In addition to his record of winning this famous championship, Matsuyama also made history by becoming the first Japanese to win a major tournament. He followed in the footsteps of Vijay Singh, from Fiji, the first Asian to win the Masters in 2000.
Japan’s famous love for the golf game is reflected in their reaction to Matsuyama’s victory. Japan has an estimated 2,500 courses – more than the rest of Asia combined – and is known for its multi-tier driving practice platforms. Japanese audiences have used the Internet to express their joy, uniting other Japanese and international fans in a moment of joint celebration amid ongoing global COVID-19 restrictions. Matsuyama’s caddie, Shota Hayafuji, also shot super star after he took off his hat and bowed his head in front of the yard after replacing the peg at the 18th green. Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide viewed the show as an “incredible feat.” These immediate celebrations could take years to successfully turn on the course for other Japanese golfers, contributing to the development of golf in Japan.
The impact of individual stereotypes on sport in Asian societies has been seen many times over. The most recent prediction of Matsuyama’s potential impact is the staggering rapid growth of Korean female golfers. Se-ri Pak joined the LPGA as the only Korean woman to enter the tournament in 1998, winning the US Women’s Open championship that same year. In 2008Pak was one of 45 Korean women on the trip; and in 2019, 39 of the top 100 players and 144 of the top 500 LPGA players are from South Korea. The recent successes of Japan’s Hinako Shibuno, who won the 2019 British Women’s Open Championship, could also demonstrate the transcontinental importance of the Asian sports model.
This trend goes beyond golf. Yao Ming’s appearance in the NBA took basketball to new heights in popularity in China, inspiring millions of young Chinese to play football. Success of Son Heung-min The Premier League has certainly led to a boom in men’s football in Korea. Baseball flourished in Japan after Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese-born player at MLB, inspiring a wave of Japanese baseball players, including Hideo Nomo and Ichiro Suzuki. Naomi Osaka, the first Asian tennis player to hold the highest ranking in singles tennis, continues to dominate and inspire the strong growth of tennis in Japan and beyond. With a genuine victory earlier this month, Matsuyama is most likely ready to join the ranks of iconic Asian athletes.
At the same time, Matsuyama’s victory did not offset some of the forbidden factors that shaped golf in Japan today. Golf history for Japan’s elite, at the expense of private club membership in Japan in 1990 averaged 50 million yen (nearly $ 520,000 today). Many private golf clubs continue this tradition with extremely exclusive – and expensive membership. Japan’s limited total acreage means there is not enough land to develop new 18-hole golf courses beyond the existing 2,500 courses, which typically require more than 100 acres per course. With these entry barriers, Matsuyama’s Masters victory could only gradually increase the number of golf players, if any.
Outside of the match, fans expressed hope that Matsuyama’s victory could help reduce discrimination against the Asian-American and Pacific Island (AAPI) communities in the US and abroad. This hope was still far off, reflected in the fact that Matsuyama’s victory was juxtaposed by news of the same day. Online racial abuse targeted at Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspurs after a soccer match against Manchester United.
Western news outlets also relied heavily on questionable language to cover Matsuyama’s victory. One New York Times article exclusively as a national hero who has mentioned stereotypical Asian traits five times separately, and other titled “A Quiet Masters Winner” about Matsuyama as a person “shy, fierce and obsessive … [and] the golfer works quietly ”. Golf Digest’s network coverage also referred to Matsuyama as the “silent star” who remained unnoticed. Matsuyama can be quiet, respectful, and hard-working, but Matsuyama’s stereotypical inclusiveness of success puts his people – not athletic achievements – at the heart. This is best illustrated on television post-win ceremony when Matsuyama was given a green jacket. Only two questions in his three-minute interview focused on his performance. For clear comparison, Dustin Johnson’s nearly five-minute interview in Celebration 2019 green jacket Focus entirely on your athletic performance. Until the Asian players were respected across sports and recognized for their achievements rather than their ethnicity, Matsuyama’s victory unfortunately could only bring about limited change.
Although golf has tried to distance itself from American politics, honoring Matsuyama as an Asian athlete has clearly put the issue of discrimination against the AAPI community to the fore. The PGA chose to compete for the Masters at Augusta National despite the host nation’s passage of controversial voting laws that disproportionately affect underrepresented communities, as opposed to Other sports agencies have moved similarly important contests out of Georgia to protest. Less than a week after Matsuyama’s victory, six Republican senators voted no The Hate Crime Act COVID-19, which seeks to address the rise of anti-AAPI hate crime during a pandemic. The reality remains clear: Asian athletes are honored while discrimination against AAPI and other minorities is at the same time tolerated.
Despite the hurdles in Japan and abroad, Matsuyama made it clear in post-win interviews that his Masters victory was for his hometown audience by speaking in Japanese. Matusyama’s Japanese-speaking choice may reflect his desire to be comfortable in the emotional environment of winning the Masters, but it also shows that his answers to victory, his process. and represent his country towards a Japanese audience. As Matsuyama himself said in a previous post satire language class with other famous golfers including Tiger Woods, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, “I can speak English, guys.” He just purposely chose not to do so.
Matsuyama’s message is an important reminder that his Masters performance may not be his year-to-date peak. While the Masters championship is an incredible achievement for any golfer, hailing this tournament is last, is all, ignoring the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. There is a lot of speculation that Matsuyama might be asked to light up the Olympic cauldron at the Olympic Opening Ceremony in July. But perhaps the greater honor lies in his participation in the Olympics, where he has the opportunity to not only represent his country, but also play – and even win – at home. .
The author would like to thank Catherine Tao, Emi Suzuki, and Spencer Hair-Elliott for their assistance in this writing.