The tee-off in the Sobu International Golf tournament today (Thursday) opened a boom year for Japanese professional golfers with more than 50 tournaments and record prize-money crammed into a seven-month season.
ms sign "Sobu International Open Golf Championship"
ms Dabphavibul (Thailand) tee off at first hole
ms Dabphavibul and two other players on fairway
ms Billy Dunk (Australia) tee off
ws Haruo Yasuda (Japan), Hsien Yung-Yo (Taiwan) and Walter Godfrey (New Zealand) chat together
ms Godfrey tees off at first hole
ms Kuo Chio-Hsiung (Taiwan) play off on eighth hole
ms Terry Kendall (New Zealand) plays shot
ms players and gallery on fairway
ms Masashi "Jumbo" Ozaki plays iron shot
ms Ozaki pitches to hole
ms Dunk shoots towards green
SPORT - GOLF
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The tee-off in the Sobu International Golf tournament today (Thursday) opened a boom year for Japanese professional golfers with more than 50 tournaments and record prize-money crammed into a seven-month season.
The Japanese Professional Golf Association said prize-money has increased by about 80-million yen (100,000 sterling) over last year's 200-million yen (250,000 sterling).
While it's still a long way behind the scale of the American professional circuit, it's a drastic increase for some 600 Japanese pro-golfers now competing on the circuit. In 1967, prize-money totalled only 60-million yen (75,000 sterling) for ten major tournaments.
The Sobu International is also the last leg of the Asian Golf circuit, with Australian Graham Marsh virtually assured of overall victory on points. Fifty overseas golfers are competing with 80 Japanese in the tournament at the Sobu Country Club in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo.
The big take-off for golf in Japan has come since 1970 with dramatic increases in both the number of tournaments and generosity of sponsors.
Golf courses have also increased: there are now an estimated 500 courses for some six-million Japanese golfers.
The big money in Japan is attracting more and more professionals and big names from overseas. Among those competing in major Japanese tournaments this year are South African Gary Player, Australians Peter Thomson, Kel Nagle, Granam Marsh and David Graham and Americans like veteran Sam Snead.
The top Japanese money-earner last year was Masashi "Jumbo" Ozaki who collected a record 18-million yen (about 22,500 sterling).
The Asian golf circuit for 1972 entered its final leg today (Thursday) with the tee-off in the Sobu International Open Golf Championship in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo.
More than 50 overseas entries are competing against 80 Japanese golfers on the 7,006-yard Sobu Country Club course.
In the lead on points after rounds in most Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Hongkong is Australian Graham Marsh, who only needs to finish reasonably well to win the circuit overall.
In heavy wind and rain, Japan's Tomoo Ishii triumphed on the first round with a three under par 69 over the 18 holes. Close behind on 71 were Ben Arda of the Philippines and Hsich Min-nan of Taiwan.
Two Japanese, Masashi "Jumbo" Ozaki and Masao Chikuma were one stroke behind with par 71's. Graham Marsh was a further stroke back on 73.
The Sobu International, with prizemoney totalling 30,000 U.S. dollars at stake, will end on Sunday.