The now retired golf pro Shugo Matsuyama did a lot for the game of golf as it came out of its dark days but he is arguably more famous for the path he blazed in his native Japan for the future of one of the game’s brightest young stars, Justin Thomas.
Thomas, 22, is one of the rising stars of the game but Matsuyama was the first “Black” professional golfer to tour in the US. Matsuyama also regularly played alongside Tiger Woods at exhibitions and was praised in American media for giving young Asian players a stage on which to display their skills. He was the first Japanese golfer to top the money list on the US PGA Tour and had many golf fans rooting for him because of that fact.
Matsuyama, 34, announced on Thursday that he would retire at the end of the year, two months after the Top 10 finish he had at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Florida. He was his country’s first top 10 finish at a US major since Ryuji Imada at the PGA Championship eight years ago. Matsuyama announced that his last tournament would be at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas at the end of the year, as his career ends after nearly eight years on the PGA Tour.
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Earlier this year Matsuyama became the first top player from Japan in 20 years to win on the tour, and at the same time he became only the fourth Asian-born player to win on the PGA Tour, after Thomas, Thongchai Jaidee and Hideki Matsuyama. “Coming out of Japan, the tour has a lot of difficulties that I experienced when I first came on tour,” Matsuyama said.
“I think the legacy I left has given hope to a lot of new players from Asia and I think that’s why many of the players from the area wanted to come and play with me on tour,” Matsuyama said. “I think a lot of golfers back home, especially juniors, would have been inspired to try it. So I think my legacy has been good. I’ve had a lot of success on tour and I think I’ve played golf in a way that’s something good for other players.”