On Sunday, April 11, Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama beat out the field at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia to win the Masters Tournament. Matsuyama’s win made history, as he became the first Asian-born player to win the Masters and the first Japanese male golfer to win a major. In addition to the $2.07 million USD prize money and coveted green jacket, the win comes at a critical junction in the fight for social justice for the AAPI community and Asians around the world facing added harassment and violence.
The world of golf is one of pretentiousness and lack of diversity, aside from household names like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie, it has long been dominated by white people, especially on the men’s side. While they’re working on being more inclusive, nothing helps more than having a player who isn’t a white guy win it. “It’s thrilling to think there are a lot of youngsters in Japan watching today. Hopefully in five, 10 years, when they get a little older, some of them will be competing on the world stage,” said Matsuyama after his win. If there’s one thing I learned growing up as an Asian American, it’s that sports is the great equalizer for racism in America. Even while you’re being trash talked and hated on, your game will always speak for itself, especially if you win. And Hideki’s game spoke for both himself and our community at large.
Winning gives you a platform with extreme reach. Showing the world that Asians can excel and reach the pinnacle of professional sports means our opinion and actions are heard and seen by many more. While he didn’t comment on social injustice in America, I believe that Matsuyama’s win is huge for the API/AAPI community here. The aphorism “a rising tide lifts all boats” is usually used in economics but it applies here too.
I’ve personally struggled immensely in the last year, and especially the last few weeks, with the increased anti-Asian sentiment around the country and in my hometown of NYC. But when I saw Dustin Johnson put the green jacket on Hideki Matsuyama, it gave me hope – that we could have allies, that we would persevere, that we could hold our heads high, that our achievements would be celebrated – because it was someone else that looked like us who won. I’m sure a lot of my fellow Asians felt the same, both here at home and abroad.
Thank you Hideki Matsuyama for making history and for helping ease the pain in the way only sports can.
Photo via Hunter Martin/Augusta National