By Ken Reed

I have a love/hate relationship with the Masters. From a pure sports perspective, I love the Masters golf tournament. It’s run exceptionally well and played on a perfectly manicured course. The best players in the world are competing and the history and tradition of the golf tournament is terrific. On the other hand, I hate the tournament’s history of racism and wealthy white privilege. For decades, the only Black faces seen on the property were those of servants.

Lee Elder was finally allowed to play in the tournament in 1975, nearly 30 years after Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Tiger Woods became the first African-American to win the Masters in 1997. That win changed the face of golf and spurred a golf boom in the United States and eventually around the world.

The 2021 Masters was another big step forward for the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club. First, Elder was invited to be an honorary starter for the tournament, along with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Then a Japanese woman, Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur tournament (a tournament that Augusta members started in 2019, after not allowing female members at the club until 2012). And this past Sunday, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama became the first Asian man to win the Masters.

A Black man and an Asian man now own Masters green jackets.

After removing the flagstick on the 18th green, Matsuyama’s Japanese caddie bowed to the course, a sign of class, respect, gratitude and sportsmanship. The video has gone viral. All the visual’s of Matsuyama’s win at Augusta will now join those of Woods’ first win at Augusta.

“Hopefully I’ll be a pioneer in this and many other Japanese will follow,” said Matsuyama through his interpreter to Jim Nantz during the Butler Cabin presentation. “I’m glad to be able to open the floodgates hopefully, and many more will follow me.”

Japan is a golf mad country and Matsuyama’s win will undoubtedly spur golf participation across the country, especially among the nation’s youth. That’s cool to think about.

Meanwhile, the members of Augusta National Golf Club will now have an Asian face and a Black face among the portraits of past Masters champions in their clubhouse. That’s also cool to think about.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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