Japan woke up on Monday morning to some exciting news after their golfing star Hideki Matsuyama created history by winning The Masters.
The 29-year-old became the first man from Japan to win one of golf’s major titles and wear the green jacket.
The victory celebrations had barely sunk in for Matsuyama when there were calls for him to be given the honor of lighting the Olympic Games torch at the opening ceremony in July.
“It would be quite an honour,” he said in a PGA Tour statement. “But I’m not sure about my schedule. If the schedules worked out and I am in Japan when that happens and they ask me, what an honor that would be.”
Matsuyama’s feat has drawn praise from government and Olympic officials with the Tokyo Games just three months away.
Katsunobu Kato, Japan’s top government spokesman, expressed “congratulations and respect from the heart” for Matsuyama’s “historic” win, which came as another ray of hope during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is another bright piece of news of a Japanese athlete’s outstanding performance on the global stage under tough circumstances like training,” Kato told a regular news conference.
Kato pointed to tennis player Naomi Osaka’s win at the Australian Open as further evidence of Japan’s sporting success.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called Matsuyama’s win “wonderful” and a source of pride and courage for the Japanese people during the difficulties posed by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, people in golf-related industries in Japan voiced expectations Monday for sales growth after Matsuyama won the 2021 Masters.
Matsuyama achieved what “everybody had dreamt of,” said Satoru Yamamoto, president and CEO of Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd., which makes golf-related items under the Dunlop brand.
Sumitomo Rubber provides Matsuyama with golf balls and clubs under a contract. The number of golfers is increasing in Japan, as the sport does not create crowded settings amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Golf Partner Co., which sells golf-linked products, launched a 10 pct discount sale for Dunlop items immediately after news of Matsuyama’s win.
Tomoya Izumi, manager of Golf Partner’s store in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district, said, “I want many young people to start playing golf,” inspired by Matsuyama.
Golf-related shares rose on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Monday.
Value Golf, which provides a golf-course booking service, climbed 13 pct. Sumitomo Rubber rose over 4 pct at one point. Alpen Co., a sports goods store chain, was also buoyant.
With inputs from Reuters/JIJI Press