It is somewhat fitting that at a tournament and golf club not known for its diverse membership and inclusive policies for much of its history, that the diversity of golf took centre stage at the beginning and end of the Masters.
The tournament week began with the celebration of Lee Elder (the first black player to tee up in the Masters) and concluded with the first-ever Japanese winner, Hideki Matsuyama.
Matsuyama was clinical in victory around Augusta National, and became the first Japanese male to win a major championship.
Japan is golf mad, so much so that Matsuyama’s entire 72-hole tournament was covered in newspapers with hole-by-hole images in the wake of his win. And as Mike Clayton wrote for organising body Golf Australia of the pressure faced by Matsuyama, “Think Adam Scott in 2013, then multiply it by 10”.
Hideki was fairly stoic in his celebrations. He treated the traditions and processes of being awarded his green jacket in multiple ceremonies with great respect.
And he conducted all of his interviews, as he does every week on Tour, with the aid of a translator.
"For mine, his speaking in the language of his homeland represents the great widespread appeal and diversity of the game we all love that is hopefully growing around the world. " - Jimmy Emanuel.
Matsuyama speaks some English, and my understanding is he has worked hard to improve and can be seen conversing with his fellow non-Japanese speaking players.
He displays an understanding of his second language when answering interview questions but – for whatever reason – chooses not to attempt to answer more complicated and detailed questions in English when interviewed on TV and in press conferences.
Sure, as a journalist, the few media opportunities I have been afforded with Matsuyama would be perhaps smoother if he were to speak English. But he remains generous with his time, particularly with the enormous throng of Japanese media that follow his almost every move, and can’t be faulted in this area.
And for mine, his speaking in the language of his homeland represents the great widespread appeal and diversity of the game we all love that is hopefully growing around the world. And needs every player it can get.
What golf doesn’t need is the social media commentary on Matsuyama and his lack of interviews conducted in English following his historic victory.
That he is somehow offending the western world or is a poor ambassador for Japanese golf because he is not fluent in another language is absurd.
This is a man who has poured countless hours into becoming one of the best golfers in the world and who just achieved something no other male golfer from his homeland has ever done. That he has the time and want to learn any English is a bonus. That he has not perfected it is in no way a knock on him.
Matsuyama’s win has been widely applauded by his fellow players, echoing how popular a colleague he is on the dog-eat-dog world of the PGA Tour.
Adam Scott was among the many to congratulate his Presidents Cup teammate and now annual dinner companion every April on a special Tuesday night.
Scott and his fellow players obviously like Matsuyama, but it is fair to say they also appreciate the further diversification of the golf-playing public and at the top level, something that has taken longer than it should to develop, but hopefully continues at a rapidly increasing rate.