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Matsuyama's Masters win inspires 'young golfers throughout Asia'

Golf stocks score huge gains in Japanese market after historic victory

Hideki Matsuyama has his green jacket put on by previous winner Dustin Johnson after winning the Masters golf tournament on April 11.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Hideki Matsuyama's victory at the Masters golf tournament Sunday in Georgia was a feat 85 years in the making, as he became the first man from Japan to put on the green jacket.

Matsuyama also is the first Japanese male player to capture the crown at any of the sport's four Grand Slam major tournaments.

"I'm not sure whether I'm number one in Japan," the 29-year-old said. "But the fact is, I did win at a major tournament where I haven't won before. It used to be thought that a Japanese could not do it, but hopefully my victory will bring about a change among Japanese youths."

Augusta National Golf Club hosted the first Masters Tournament in 1934. Two years later, Toichiro Toda became the first Japanese to set foot on the greens, when he and Taiwanese golfer Seisui Chin were personally invited to the third edition of the annual event by the founder of the golf club, noted U.S. amateur champion Bobby Jones.

Top Japanese professional golfers competed in the Masters during the postwar era. Masashi "Jumbo" Ozaki appeared 19 times, while Isao Aoki and Tsuneyuki "Tommy" Nakajima participated 14 and 11 times, respectively. But none of the three giants finished atop the leaderboard.

Matsuyama made his name in 2011 as the first Japanese to win the honors as the lowest-scoring amateur at the Masters. He took the top spot in the tournament in his 10th try.

Japanese male and female players both made history in Augusta this year, as 17-year-old Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National Women's Amateur the previous week.

Golf phenom Tiger Woods, who is recuperating from a February car crash, congratulated Matsuyama via Twitter on Sunday for "[m]aking Japan proud."

"Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment for you and your country," Woods wrote. "This historical @TheMasters win will impact the entire golf world."

Legendary player Jack Nicklaus also sent his "heartfelt congratulations," in a Twitter thread written the same day.

"I competed against the great Isao Aoki, and know how revered he was and is," Nicklaus said. "Hideki will also now forever be a hero to his country."

Sweden's Annika Sorenstam, the newly elected president of the International Golf Federation, tweeted that with the Olympics "going to Japan later this year, their countryman's win will be sure to inspire young golfers throughout Asia."

The impact of Matsuyama's victory rippled through the Japanese stock market Monday. Graphite Design, which makes plastic shafts for golf clubs, went limit up at one point after rocketing 18% from the previous session.

Booking site Value Golf jumped as high as 19% during trading while used equipment chain Golf Do briefly rallied 17%. Sumitomo Rubber Industries, the tire company that also makes the Srixon clubs used by Matsuyama, climbed as high as 4% during Monday's trading.

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