The Kasumigaseki Country Club, the scene of the recent spectacular Canada Cup match, lies only some 25 miles from downtown Tokyo, but it usually takes about two hours to get there by auto. In the last decade the capital city of this astonishing country has grown at a terrific clip, and today, with a population of over 8½ million, it has overtaken both New York and London and ranks as the world's largest city. As Tokyo and its environs have burgeoned, the number of vehicles on the roads has multiplied enormously, but the highways and byways in and around the city remain little more than poorly paved trail's. One horn-happy bottleneck leads loudly into another, and there has naturally developed a frontier style of driving that would strike fear into the heart of a veteran Paris hackman.
However, all the wear and tear entailed in arriving at the Kasumigaseki Country Club was well worthwhile. The 1957 Canada Cup, the fifth edition of this competition, was not only a fine tournament from a straight golfing point of view but it was also the most important international sports event ever held in the Far East. As such, it radiated a meaningful glamour for the two-man teams from 30 countries who competed, and it meant the world to the Japanese. They had been extremely hopeful that the tournament would turn out to be a success and so justify the confidence the International Golf Association had shown in bringing the tourney to Tokyo. Well, the tournament was not only successful, it was memorable. It was climaxed with the neatness of fiction, by the unexpected and totally impressive winning performance by the Japanese team of Torakichi (Pete) Nakamura and Koichi Ono. Five shots behind Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret, the American representatives, after the first round, Nakamura and Ono moved out in front by two shots on the second day, bolstered their lead to nine shots on the third 18, and held onto that margin on the closing round to finish nine full shots ahead of the United States and 12 shots ahead of the third-place South African team of Gary Player and Harold Henning, with Australia, Wales, Canada, England and Brazil following in that order. To make the Japanese triumph complete, the trophy for the best individual score for the 72 holes went to Nakamura. A cool and cheerful 42-year-old ex-caddie whose stocky build is quite reminiscent of Sarazen's, Nakamura put together four very solid rounds of 68, 68, 67,71 over the par-72 layout, and his winning total of 274 was seven full shots lower than the trio who tied for second—Snead, Player and young David Thomas from Wales.
For the benefit of those who are not acquainted with the International Golf Association and the Canada Cup competition, we might briefly explain before proceeding further that the IGA, now headed by Frank Pace Jr., was the brain child of John Jay Hopkins, the late American industrialist, who recognized that golf was a truly international language. The annual tournament which he set up was called, somewhat confusingly, the Canada Cup. The first Canada Cup match got under way modestly in 1953 at Montreal when seven nations responded to Hopkins' invitation to send a team of two representatives. Argentina was the surprise winner of that first match, and the following year Australia captured the second match, also staged in Montreal, with a field of 25 teams entered. The tourney then started an annually ambulant career which saw it held in Washington, D.C. in 1955, and last year, when Hogan and Snead carried the day for the United States, at Wentworth, near London.
In any clime, it is the best by far of the many hands-across-the-seas affairs which have sprung up since the war. The secret of its success perhaps lies in its unique structure: the winner is the two-man team that turns in the lowest combined medal score for the four rounds—that is, the sum of both players' individual scores over the 72 holes. Unlike four-ball competition, in which one of the two partners can be off and his partner can take up the slack, in the Canada Cup both men must play well. This can make for considerable excitement, for if both members of one team suddenly get hot and a rival pair momentarily grows cold, the whole complexion of the tournament can change in a matter of holes. On the second day of play at Kasumigaseki, for example, when the Japanese and American teams were paired together, Snead and Demaret dropped six shots (and their lead) on the last six holes.
November 11, 1957
Long after the statistics of the 1957 Canada Cup match have become a blur, the players from all corners of the world who played in the tournament will remember the spectacle that unfolded at Kasumigaseki. The club is situated in the rolling farm country of Saitama Prefecture, the fancifully curved outline of the Chichibu Mountains rising in the distance. Kasumigaseki has some 2,000 members. In order to accommodate them, the club maintains two 18-hole courses. They are like no other layouts you have ever seen in that each hole has two separate and distinct greens, one planted with rye grass and the other with Korai grass. One green swings out of the fairway to the left and the other breaks out to the right. More often than not, the two greens are separated by bunkers and by mounding that functions for both greens, and the over-all architecture has been handled so skillfully that on just about every hole the two greens are about equal in strength and appeal. During the cold season the rye grass greens are used. When they die out with the coming of the hot summer weather, the Korai greens, dormant in winter, are up and ready. For the Canada Cup the Korai greens were in play, and they presented quite a problem. They are about three times as difficult to putt as Bermuda grass, to which they bear a general resemblance, because they are about three times as wiry and tufty. The grain of the grass grows hectically in every direction, like the extra-rough beard featured in shaving-cream commercials.
Ono and Nakamura putted these greens far more successfully than any other team, and this, of course, had a great deal to do with their superior scoring. On the second day, when Snead couldn't buy a putt, Ono, a slim, dour chap who began his golf as a caddie in Manchuria, holed three putts of over 20 feet on the front nine, and Nakamura had five one-putt greens coming in. On the third day they holed between them a total of 10 fairly long ones ranging from 12 to 25 feet. Over the four days their play from tee to green was steady rather than exceptional. Neither is a stylist, or close to it. On his backswing Nakamura lurches his whole body way around to the right, thrusting his hands into the air as if to grab the rope of a bell in a belfry. Ono has a very flat backswing on which he loosely flips the club open and shut with his wrists. Nevertheless, and notwithstanding these variations on orthodoxy, they both come into the ball well. Their driving, while short, was at least as straight and serviceable as any of their rivals'. Their iron play was far from brilliant but it was good. And this Nakamura chap—well, there are some difficult shots he plays with audacious precision for all of his lurching backswing. Twice he was trapped off the tee on par 4s and banged a spoon from the sand to within 20 feet of the stick, picking the ball up as cleanly as a whistle.
The rough, unpredictable texture of the Korai greens is the one weakness of the east course at Kasumigaseki, over which the tourney was played. Otherwise, it is a true championship layout—6,895 yards long and with only two holes that could be considered weak, two shortish par 5s that can be birdied without too much trouble by professional players. In its general aspect, the course resembles Pinehurst more than any other well-known American layout, for the majority of the holes are either shut in or bordered by handsome stands of pine and cedar. It has some 132 traps which are well placed and beautifully contoured with that specific esthetic sensibility the Japanese have for landscaping. The outstanding feature of the course, though, is the fairways. They are of Korai grass, and whatever shortcomings this strain may have for putting, it makes the finest fairways in the world. It stands up firm, like the bristles of a hairbrush. Nearly every lie is a perfect lie. Kasumigaseki was designed about 28 years ago by an amateur architect named Kinya Fujita, now a retired export-import merchant.
Onto this charming course poured the most courteous golf galleries imaginable—close to 12,000 spectators on Sunday, the day of the final round. Proud as they were of the exploits of their countrymen, they applauded with matching enthusiasm whichever team was paired with the Japanese, being particularly receptive toward "Sneado" and "Demuray," as they pronounce the names of the American veterans. Between shots and while a player was executing his shots, the galleries were so respectfully quiet you could hear a putt drop, literally. Quite a few women were in the galleries, only a handful in kimonos, the rest in Western sportswear of English cut. As for the men, they were dressed very soberly in gray, black and brown business suits. Japanese galleries voice their golf comments almost always in English. After a well-struck shot, they pipe to one another, "Goodoshottoh" or "Nysushottoh," as if they were one-word expressions. They are properly appreciative of the value of a "Wanputtoh-gureen." Occasionally they will groan a sympathetic "Oshii" (too bad) when a man fluffs a trap shot or does something else of little value, now and then you overhear a soft "Jozu Desu" (well played, sir) breathed sibilantly forth, but English is the accepted language for golf. "As a matter of fact," an English-educated official of the Japan Golf Association confided with a twinkle, "the only English many of my Japanese friends know are golf terms—driver, bogey, bunker, three-putt green, and the rest." Considering that they are comparatively new hands at golf, they know the game very well indeed and they are crazy about it.
The real stars of the show from the players' point of view were the Japanese girl caddies—no question about this. Doll-faced and bright-eyed, they range in age from 15 to 22 or so, but they appear to be much younger. They are uniformly small even for Japanese girls, but they are farm girls and as strong as ponies. They whip the colossal golf bags of the pros onto their shoulders with no apparent effort and, their faces lit up with happy smiles, they half walk, half scamper down the fairways faster and more gracefully than most American women can move when they are burdened down with a pocketbook. And they can caddie! They are expert judges of distances, and flabbergasted Demaret and Snead by calling their clubs right on the nose after watching them hit the ball on three or four holes on their first practice round. Some of the caddies speak some English—that is, they can tell you the number of yards to the pin or the names of the clubs—but others communicate by touching the head of the club and through similar sign language. I don't know what their regular outfit is, but for the Canada Cup they were decked out in navy blue golf caps, vivid red jackets (with the name of the player lettered in white in front, the name of his country on the back), navy slacks, red socks and white sneakers. Accompanying each foursome was a fifth girl in a navy blue jacket, sort of a mobile greenkeeper. She carried, slung over her shoulder, a small canvas bag filled with a mixture of topsoil, fertilizer and grass seed. Whenever a divot was dug, she scooped some of the mixture out of her bag with a tiny shovel, filled the hole, and pressed it down with her heel. She also carried a toothless rake, and whenever a player had business with a bunker, she would enter it as he departed and erase every clue of his visit. We can learn quite a lot from the scrutable East.
All of us who were fortunate enough to be on hand for the fifth Canada Cup match will carry with us a hundred and one pleasant memories of a tournament that was beautifully run and beautifully won—the greatest victory the Japanese have ever scored in a major sports competition. (Nakamura may well become a national hero, and he is a fine type of man for such a spot.) For myself, if I were to try to select just one typical visual impression to epitomize the happy affair, I know what it would be. It would be a landscape, the view you get as you look down a long par 4 from behind the green toward the distant tee. Under the slate-gray sky, with the pines tall in the background, a foursome of golfers is walking down the fairway after their tee shots. And out in front of the players, hustling along almost in perfect step, all gaiety and yet all proficiency, moves a quartet of girl caddies in their red jackets, bright as tanagers against the gray pastel of the autumn scene.