Being both a sports and history enthusiast, I love those times when history and sports collide to create an amazing and groundbreaking moment. This past weekend in Augusta, GA was one of those special moments. On Sunday April 11, Hideki Matsuyama, of Japan, won the 2021 Masters. Matsuyama led the tournament's final round from start to finish, becoming the first Asian-born man to win at Augusta National.
A former teenage golf prodigy in Japan, twenty-nine-year-old Hideki Matsuyama held a four-shot lead heading into Sunday's fourth round. He bogeyed his shot on the first hole, but quickly recovered by finding the bad first shot in the left woods and smashing the ball from a bed of pine straw and through a slender gap between two trees. The tone for Matsuyama's victorious day was set. Even though he had three more bogies on the final holes, Matsuyama scored a 73 to win the prestigious golf tournament by one stroke.
Hideki Matsuyama (who finished at ten under par) is the first Japanese man to win a major tournament on the pro golf tour. Two Japanese women have won major golf championships. Will Zalatoris, a Masters rookie, finished second on Sunday, while Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth tied for third place at seven under par. It has been a long journey for Hideki Matsuyama, but on Sunday, he received the ceremonial green jacket beside the 18th hole and may now be a national hero in Japan. When asked if he was the greatest golfer in Japanese history, he said through an interpreter "I cannot say that I am the greatest. However I'm the first to win a major, and if that's the bar, then I set it."
Matsuyama's breakthrough victory comes at a time of racial rhetoric and violence against Asians and Asian-Americans in the United States. Me myself, I don't watch or listen to much golf. It is not one of my favorite sports and there is still a lot about the game I don't understand. But as I said, I know an historic moment when one arises and this was one of those times. As a black man, I have to give a shout out to any person of color that is able to persevere despite the odds. So, congratulations Hideki Matsuyama for being the first Asian-born man to win a major. Since he is still young, hopefully there will be many more to come.