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A Memorable Masters Tourney

By Rolland Kidder

For me, the final day, the final hole of the Masters Golf Tournament is always spectacle for an emotional outpouring of the best in sport. This year was no exception.

As he walked toward the 18th green, this year’s winner was special and the crowd knew it. Small by Master’s standards because of COVID, the crowd stood, clapped and cheered as Hideki Matsuyama made his way onto the green.

A novice and amateur 10 years ago, Matsuyama had been the low scoring amateur at this same event.

Now, he was the winner of the tournament and of the Green Jacket–in my view, the most prestigious honor you can receive in the world of golf.

There are four major tournaments a year in professional golf–the U.S. Open, the PGA, the British Open and the Masters. The Masters is the only major played at the same golf course each year–Augusta National. If this were baseball, it would be like the World Series being played each year at Yankee Stadium.

Augusta is magical. It is a golf course in the midst of a beautiful garden. It is a course built and envisioned by Bobby Jones, perhaps the greatest American pioneer in the game of golf. You feel the spirit of Bobby Jones when you are there. The players know that this is “holy ground.” When you tee a ball up at Augusta National, you are treading the same ground as some the great names in sport–names like Jones, Hogan, and Palmer.

We know that Matsuyama’s victory was huge news in Japan. The sport has been growing in that country since its introduction early in the twentieth century. Matsuyama is now a hero in his home country, and that is good for the sport everywhere.

When given the Green Jacket, the commentator mentioned that the newest winner at the Masters was from Sendai, Japan.

It brought back a memory of an old friend, Carl, who at age 19 was a waist-gunner on a B-29 which one night in 1945, along with many other planes, firebombed the City of Sendai–a part of the great conflagration that ended World War II. Though at 12,000 ft., the big bomber was bounced around like a ball by the heat coming from the flames below.

He couldn’t sleep much after that night… the smells of the burning City of Sendai would not leave him. It wasn’t until he decided to give his life to God and become a minister that Carl began to sleep well again.

Yet, he never forgot his days in the Air Corps and would regularly attend reunions of the 20th Air Force. He always wore a B-29 tie clasp. We sang in a church choir together. It was the tie-clasp that led to my asking him about the war.

Other than last year’s postponement for six months because of COVID, the only time the Masters has ever been cancelled (or postponed) was for three years (1943-’45) during the Second World War.

If Carl were still around, he would have loved to have seen Hideki Matsuyama walking up that 18th fairway, toward the green and the Green Jacket.

Two nations, once at war, now at peace with a son of Sendai winning America’s, and probably the world’s, most prestigious trophy in golf.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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