Published April 2021

Shigeru Maruyama Michiko Hattori

Golf is another Olympic sport closely related to Riviera. The flagship Riviera Country Club (RCC) will be the competition venue for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. Riviera has been paying close attention to the tournament being held in Japan, as RCC has been cooperating with this tournament's venue, Kasumigaseki Country Club (Kasumigaseki CC), as a place to study course maintenance. The two legendary players who served as coaches for the Japanese national team, and their old friend Akira Watanabe, representative of the Riviera Group, will talk about the TOKYO 2020 golf competition.

Interview: Hanako Watanabe

TOKYO2020 Japan National Golf Team Manager

Shigeki Maruyama

Maruyama Shigeki

Born in 1969. Professional golfer. While he was attending Nihon University, he won the Japan Student Golf Championship. After graduating from university, he turned professional and has won 10 Japanese men's races and 3 American PGA men's races so far. 2002 World Golf Championship “EMC World Cup”
Team victory. Coach of Japan's national golf team at the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Advisor to Japan Golf Tour Organization. Representative director of Shigeki Maruyama Junior Foundation.

female coach

Michiko Hattori

Hattori Michiko

Born in 1968. Former professional golfer. Commentator. At the time, she was the youngest person to win the Japan Women's Amateur Championship at the age of 15 years and 9 months, and the following year, she became the youngest ever and the first Japanese to win the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship. She studied abroad at the University of Texas where she earned a degree in International Management. After she returned home, she passed the protest test at the top. She has 18 wins for Japanese women. She is the prize queen. She is the Japanese national team women's coach at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Her book “The Power of Turnaround” will be published in July 2021.

Inami's silver medal    
Matsuyama on the verge of winning a medal

Watanabe: First of all, congratulations to the women's representative, Moen Inami, for winning the silver medal!
She became the first male or female to win a medal in Japan's Olympic golf competition. I was also moved by the efforts of Hideki Matsuyama, who competed for the bronze medal. I believe that our fight, even though we had just overcome the coronavirus infection and were not in the best of health, encouraged all the people.

Maruyama: During this coronavirus pandemic, golf is being reconsidered as a sport that does not involve close contact. Matsuyama's hard work under such circumstances gave a tailwind to the boom. This is Inami's great achievement. After her illness, Matsuyama attracted a lot of attention from the public, and in the end, it felt like Inami stole everything away (lol), but that was also due to her luck.

Hattori: Inami's concentration was amazing. In the men's final round, a crow rang out at a critical point, disrupting Matsuyama's concentration. I was like, "Well, at this timing!"

Maruyama: Including such strange things, the people who win medals must have something in addition to their ability.

Maruyama: In Inami's case, Matsuyama may have exorcised evil spirits... I was convinced that Matsuyama would win a medal at number 3 in the 15rd place playoff, and I got so excited that I took my eyes off the track for a moment and went to get some water while thinking about my comments as the coach. is. That wasn't right. I had to watch the putt until the end, remembering, ``Don't miss it! Put it in!'' Maybe it was my fault that I couldn't bring positive luck to Matsuyama. (lol)

Watanabe: No, no, even if such a thing beyond human wisdom were to happen to a genius like Mr. Matsuyama, wouldn't that make golf more interesting and profound?

Creating an atmosphere rather than technical guidance

Watanabe: The tournament had strict entry restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, but where were the national coaches and what kind of activities did they do during the competition?

Maruyama: It was OK for us to go out on the course, so we followed the rules and accompanied the players to their rounds. On the final day of the men's tournament, where Matsuyama's medal was at stake, he accompanied Rikuya Hoshino for the first four holes. Hoshino wasn't feeling well, so he gave some advice about what he noticed during putting practice in the morning.

Hattori: In the case of golf, the Olympic athletes are professionals, so the role of the national team coach is not to provide detailed technical guidance. Under the unique circumstances of the Olympics, it is important to create an environment and atmosphere that will allow athletes to demonstrate their true potential. In Inami's case, he had a discussion with his personal coach who served as his caddy: ``The Olympics will be a tough schedule and the temperatures will be high, so we should consciously save our practice and get plenty of rest.'' I also created an opportunity to talk with her in a bubble outside the golf course, as she doesn't have a lot of experience in international matches, and I cherished the time where we could relax and have a casual conversation. On the other hand, she refrained from giving advice to Nasa Hataoka, who has now grown into a top-ranked player in the world, because she wanted to let her adjust as she wanted, and because she didn't want to break her routine. I did. However, she regrets that she should have given more consideration to Hataoka, who was feeling the pressure of having all the public's expectations on her, so that she could be more relaxed.

Maruyama: Hataoka has always been number one. It is natural for the world to expect “results”. But there are no absolutes in golf. Even Tiger Woods, who seems to have won the title he aimed for, is not an absolute champion who was determined to win even before he started playing. Even people who aren't normally interested in golf will say, ``Congratulations to Inami, and we missed you Matsuyama,'' when they hear about the results in the news. That's what the Olympics are. However, fans who love golf and have watched the game seriously will say, ``It was a deep and amazing play,'' and they appreciate not only the results in terms of scores and rankings, but also the execution of the game, the players' efforts, and attitudes. Athletes should aim for that, and the four players on this team were really great in this regard. Even under the pressure of being watched by the public, he did not complain, endured the intense heat, and practiced diligently. I think that kind of attitude was passionately conveyed to the fans.

Individual competition played in teams

Watanabe: Did you have any difficulties as the national team coach during the tournament?

Maruyama: Nothing! I was at the venue from morning until 6pm, introducing myself as ``Super Volunteer Maru-chan,'' and was just so excited.

Hattori: Mr. Maruyama is the general director. The female players were also looked after and attentive, so it must have been difficult. He put a lot of effort into creating a cheerful atmosphere, but he also gave advice at the perfect time to Hataoka, who was struggling with the deep rough at Kasumigaseki CC. It was Mr. Maruyama who proposed the Japanese team's joint practice with men and women.

Michiko Hattori

Maruyama: That's right. Each team was busy making final preparations for the match, but on the second day of practice, the boys and girls took the plunge and held just one joint practice. Only at the Olympics can you do something like this.

Hattori: The joint practice between men and women seemed to be a great source of motivation, especially for Hataoka.

Watanabe: So that created a sense of unity as a Japanese national team? However, the Olympic golf competition is an individual event. Before the players are teammates, they are rivals competing for victory. Why did the two of you, as coaches, take so much effort to create a sense of unity?

Maruyama: That's an important point. It happened at the last Rio Olympics. As a result, the two athletes on the men's national team were unable to perform well enough to win medals. When that happens, the gallery and press are gone, and even if you make a birdie, the applause is sparse. My motivation was steadily decreasing. Above all, the people in question have the regret of not being able to live up to the country's expectations, so the toughness of it cannot be compared to a normal tour. This is bad, I shouted to myself and continued to cheer. The players may have found it more of a nuisance. But later, I received a polite email from both of them, saying, ``Thanks to that cheering, I was able to get out of the hole.'' On the big stage of the Olympics, where we are carrying the weight of our country, it is important to have the mental support of competing as a team.

Hattori: After the final day of the men's game, when the male and female players met, Matsuyama, who was supposed to be feeling the most frustrated, said to the two women's players who were about to play, ``Come and avenge me.'' "Give it to me," he said with a blown away smile. He said, ``Matsuyama's strong spirit touched my heart.''

Maruyama: After the match, I just said to Matsuyama and Hoshino, ``Let's be proud of being selected to represent Tokyo and aim for the next one.'' I think both of them made the switch quickly. In fact, Matsuyama took second place in the American playoffs the following week.

Hattori: Hataoka also contacted me and said, ``It will be difficult to make the switch, but I will do my best for the British Open.'' I am sure that her painful experience will make her stronger. (In fact, she later won the US tour in Arkansas)

Watanabe: Professional golfers, who usually play alone, compete as a team led by a coach at the Olympics, and are able to entrust their passion to their teammates. That's the beauty of the Olympics.

Maruyama: In that sense, I am proposing that the Olympic golf competition should adopt team competitions. If there are only two individual competitions, the involvement of coaches and staff tends to be biased toward one athlete or the other. Fans will also be cheering for their favorite players. If it's an Olympic event, it would be better if coaches and fans could come together as one, even in individual events where athletes compete in teams.

Hattori: Even people who don't know about golf seem to be more interested in a ``country vs. country'' team tournament. It may also provide motivation to top male professionals who are reluctant to participate in the Olympics due to the crowded schedule of regular tours.

Watanabe: Is it difficult to mix men and women in golf? This year's table tennis pair Mizutani and Ito won the gold medal and there was a lot of excitement. Maruyama: In the case of golf, it might be a little difficult to mix genders. The location of the tee box is different for men and women, and the way they hit the ball is different, making it difficult to broadcast on TV. As a ``competition to be watched,'' there are issues. It would be realistic to have separate competitions for men and women in team competitions.

Watanabe: I can't believe you even thought about the convenience of TV broadcasting...that's amazing!

Shigeru Maruyama Michiko Hattori

I want to go out too~
Honestly, not past tense

Watanabe: Both of you have experience competing wearing national team uniforms with the JAPAN logo on them.

Maruyama: When I was a university student, I was selected to represent the Asian Games, and I was standing on the podium listening to Kimigayo. I can't forget that feeling of elation, and ever since then, no matter what else happens, I've been determined to make it to the national team. That's the case even now.

Hattori: I also joined the national team when I was a junior and traveled to various countries for matches. However, I thought golf was irrelevant as an Olympic sport and that the Olympics were something to watch on TV. However, golf returned to the Olympics in Rio for the first time in 112 years, and the next event was Tokyo, and I was able to experience it up close! I have never been so happy.

Watanabe: You mentioned that there are some top athletes who are reluctant to participate in the Olympics, what do you think about them?

Maruyama: I don't deny professional athletes who think like that. Everyone is different because they are professionals. However, I personally have never refused to be on the national team. Because there are so many opportunities to carry the national flag on your back.

Hattori: I was the type of player who wanted to set a goal and quickly climb the ladder. If the Olympics were in front of me, I definitely would have targeted them. The Olympics, which occur once every four years, are something special. That's what I was actually thinking as I snuggled up to Inami and Hataoka. I also wanted to go to the Olympics.

Maruyama: I wanted to participate too!

Watanabe: I wanted to see it too~ (lol)

To golf course staff

Watanabe: Riviera Country Club (RCC) is scheduled to be the golf competition venue for the Los Angeles Olympics seven years from now. Mamoru Tokairin, the greenkeeper at Kasumigaseki CC, which was the venue for this tournament, previously trained in course maintenance through the RCC's training program. Prior to this tournament, RCC welcomed eight Kasumigaseki CC staff members to provide world-class maintenance support.

Maruyama: The greens at Kasumigaseki CC had what could be called the best finish.
The Japanese delicacy was visible everywhere and it was truly beautiful. ``With this, I can't blame the course even if I make a mistake,'' Matsuyama said.

Hattori: The women's game started on the second day of junior high school after the last day of the men's game, so I was worried that it would be difficult to get into good shape due to the heat. However, the conditions were even better than during the men's match, and I was humbled by the efforts of the maintenance staff.

Watanabe: I'm sure everyone at Kasumigaseki CC will be happy to hear that.

Maruyama: Through my experience at the PGA, I saw firsthand how much hospitality American golf course staff contributed to the players and the game, and how much respect they received from the players who benefited from their hospitality.
Japanese golf fans and people at golf courses are unaware of the situation in America. It doesn't change because I don't know.
I hope that the climate of the golf world in Japan will begin to change as a result of the Olympics being held in Japan.

Watanabe: I completely agree. I would like to take on the challenge of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics with that same feeling.

Shigeru Maruyama Michiko Hattori

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