Ever since 1945 the Japanese, denied the privilege (and the expense) of preparing for World War III, have worked indefatigably at winning World War II. First came the transistors. Then Nikon. Then stereo. Then Sony. Then Toyota, Datsun and Subaru. Now, abetted as usual by U.S. interests, they have decided to capture golf, partly by seduction and partly by taking another foreign product and doing it better than its inventors. Their chosen instrument is a soon-to-be-refined replica of the Masters championship at Augusta, and they already can boast not one but two Bob Joneses—Robert Trent Jones, that is, and his son Bob Jr., both golf course architects. In fact, the tournament was Bob Jr.'s idea.
The campaigning began last week at the Sohbu Country Club, a Jones-polished, 45-hole spa an hour southeast of Tokyo, in Chiba prefecture. The event was the first Taiheiyo (Pacific) Club Masters championship, and for openers the sponsors put up $300,000 in prize money. This did not make it the first $300,000 tournament—Dow Jones in 1970 was, and everyone knows what happened to the U.S. economy after that—but it offered several things Dow Jones did not: top first-place money of $65,000, no cut after 36 holes, $1,000 for every entrant who finished the 72 holes, $2,000 each day for low score and a $10,000 bonus to anyone who made a hole in one on the 16th. Nor was that all. U.S. pros were promised free transportation from San Francisco to Japan and back for themselves and their wives. Similar offers went to other countries, Australia and England among them. Oh, yes—are you ready for this, golfers? Free hotel, free ground transportation, free meals and free booze also were included. No pearls—but this was only the first year.
Well, Jack Nicklaus wasn't ready for it and neither were Arnold Palmer, Doug Sanders, Bobby Nichols, Bob Charles, Sam Snead, Tommy Aaron, Julius Boros or Frank Beard. No matter. Really. None of these players actually had promised to come, and it is understandable that Taiheiyo, in its enthusiasm, mistook signs of interest for assurances. Anyway, all of these no-shows—even Arnie—are now more famous in Japan than they were before because each had his picture (in color yet) along with a brief biography in the Taiheiyo Masters program. Palmer got even more. The club reproduced his letter of regret, also in color, and slipped it into each program.
If Taiheiyo was dismayed by these postprinting defections, the club was not deterred. Its leaders had one firm promise—Supermex was coming. "Jack Nicklaus is a samurai," one of them told Bob Jr., "but Lee Trevino is a samurai, too." They also had reason to believe that a whole galaxy of slightly lesser U.S. samurais would be on hand.
And they were right, although a good many of the guests were somewhat mystified as to the identity of their host. In Honolulu Bob Rosburg, pausing en route for a couple of practice rounds, said, "I don't quite know what Taiheiyo is. But when the trip is free and everybody who finishes gets $1,000 regardless of his score, this seems like one tournament you can't lose, even if you don't win." One of the mysteries, at least to the Americans, was the fact that the Taiheiyo Club Masters was going to be played at the Sohbu Country Club. Why not at Taiheiyo's own course? Simple: it doesn't have one.
The Taiheiyo Club is in reality one of many financial arms of the Heiwa Sogo Bank. It was organized early this year to develop leisure facilities, not only in Japan but in such distant places as Jakarta, Bangkok and Alaska. Although it still has no golf club of its own in Tokyo, it is building an 18-hole course and marina in Guam and a 36-hole course and marina in Korea. It is also investigating possible investment in existing facilities in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Joneses, père et fils, got into the act last March when Taiheiyo consulted them on recommendation of another consortium for whom they had designed Golf 72 at a mountain resort east of Tokyo. As Bob Jr. remembers it, he said, in effect, "Why don't you start off your program with a bang by staging the biggest and richest golf tournament ever held?"
The Heiwa Sogo Bank gave this a lot of thought—three days' worth, to be precise—and then said yes. Almost before they knew it Bob and Bob Jr. were at work selecting the best 18 of 27 holes that lie on one side of Sohbu's elaborate complex in Chiba. Getting Sohbu was no problem. The bank owns it, too. Sohbu's 2,400 golf-crazy members, whose memberships are currently valued at five million yen (about $16,500) apiece, were more than willing to sacrifice some of their playing time for the glory of it all. In June the Joneses came back to polish the chosen 18 holes. Meanwhile, Taiheiyo emissaries had infiltrated the U.S., notebooks and invitations in hand—even visiting, by God, the Masters itself. If Japan has a national motto, it might well be: first do it their way, and then do it right.
Possibly to avoid boring their prospective guests, the Taiheiyo people didn't get into the intricacies of Japanese expansion in their sales talks. They simply stated the Taiheiyo Masters' aims: "To promote international goodwill through the golf tournament, to help promote the golf world, to contribute to improving the art of golf, to work for bringing up the sound rising generation and to resolve a part of income resulting from the golf tournament into the social public." Who could knock that? Taiheiyo also mentioned that His Imperial Highness, Prince Takamatsu, was the club's honorary governor. Has Apawamis got a prince? Has Westchester? Baltusrol? Even Augusta? The Japanese also, naturally enough, mentioned the prizes and the perquisites.
And so it came to pass that on Oct. 1 and 2 Japan Air Lines planes began crossing the Pacific with an array of U.S. pros—Gay Brewer, Bert Yancey, Tom Shaw, Dan Sikes, Billy Casper, Phil Rodgers, Bob Murphy, Orville Moody, Gene Littler, Dave Marr, Homero Blancas, George Archer, Charles Coody, Al Geiberger, Bob Goalby and Ray Floyd, to name a few of the 38. Not to mention some Aussies: Bruce Crampton, Bruce Devlin and a PGA rookie named David Graham, who had won the 1972 Cleveland Open. And wives. And at least one child, Crampton's 3½-year-old tow-haired son Jay. But no Trevino.
They landed at Haneda Airport in Tokyo to be greeted by the world's most sulphurous smog, although buses provided by Taiheiyo quickly carried them beyond it to Chiba city. (Except for a very few days of the year residents of the capital of the Land of the Rising Sun have to drive outside Tokyo to make sure the sun is still rising.)