Bob Turner helped turn Hideki Matsuyama into Masters champion


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AUGUSTA, GA – The Shepherd was dressed in a white Masters cap, collared short sleeve shirt and dark blue pants, and he looked like your average 68-year-old bank executive in your average golf gallery . But Bob Turner was not a well-connected fan who scored a ticket to a pandemic-reduced Augusta National Sunday.

No, Turner was the most obvious American reason why Japan now have a great men’s champion for the first time.

He is much more than the interpreter of Hideki Matsuyama. Turner is responsible for logistics, transportation and entry to tournaments. He is to the golfer what a “body man” is to a President of the United States. Turner is the one who helped make Matsuyama comfortable enough in a foreign country that he could win the Jack Nicklaus Tournament in Ohio at the age of 22, become a five-time PGA Tour winner and write. history in his homeland by winning. the most prestigious tournament of the game in the world in the pines of Georgia.

More than anything, Turner is Hideki Matsuyama’s good friend. He wasn’t just alongside the champ during his interview at Butler Cabin, or in the main media center. Turner has been by his side all week, on and off the course, as he has been for years, trying to guide his man to a magical moment that has been brewing for almost 50 years.

The journey began in 1972, when Turner, a student of Brigham Young and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left for a two-year mission in Japan. He met the woman who would be his wife, returned to the United States, and then, after his wife, Hiroko, became homesick, returned to Japan to complete his education and play golf at Waseda University. from Tokyo, which had one of the top 10 golf teams. He was the only American to play college golf in Japan, and one day a tournament director asked him, “What the hell are you doing here?”

Translator and friend Bob Turner (returning) was instrumental in Hideki Matsuyama’s journey to the Masters title.

The man offered Turner a job in the golf industry, and soon he helped Seve Ballesteros, Sam Snead, and Johnny Miller upon their arrival in Japan. Returning to the United States years later, Turner’s son Allen would work as a performer for Seattle Mariners stars Kazuhiro Sasaki and Ichiro Suzuki. Sasaki had attended Matsuyama University, Tohoku Fukushi, which would compete in tournaments in Seattle. The school’s golf coach will ultimately ask Turner, who worked for his father, to help Matsuyama acclimatize to Augusta after a 19-year-old Hideki qualified for the Masters in 2011, when he finished as a weak amateur.

“And here we are,” said Bob Turner on the first fairway on Sunday, hours before his friend found himself in a green jacket.

Turner looked a little stressed after Matsuyama bugged No 1 and turned his four-stroke lead over Xander Sc Chaudele into a three-stroke lead. Not too stressed. As he walked the course and spoke to two reporters, Turner compared Matsuyama’s passion to that of Ballesteros. “Seve used to say to me, ‘Bob, I’m playing Sunday, packing my bags and looking forward to the next tournament.’ “

Turner told a story about the first US Open in Matsuyama, Merion, in 2013, when he shot a 67th final round to tie for 10th. It had been a long, wet and grueling week in Merion, with some serious logistical challenges, and Turner figured it was an envelope after his player cleared his locker and headed to a parking lot near the training ground.

Matsuyama told his interpreter that he wanted to hit balls.

“Are you not tired?” Turner asked.

“Bob,” Matsuyama replied, “look at this wonderful practice range. We cannot let it go to waste. “

Matsuyama pounded for an hour. “I knew then that he was someone special,” Turner said.

He had to be special on Sunday to overcome his second shot at the 15th hole, where he held a four-time lead. Matsuyama hit his approach onto the green and into the water, and barely scrambled to bogey while ScHotele birdied to reduce the lead to two.

Sc Chaudele was the one to fold on the next hole, when he put his tee shot into the water on the way to a fatal triple bogey. Matsuyama missed his normal putt, but in the end it didn’t matter. He went by 17 to maintain his two-stroke advantage over Will Zalatoris, then called on bogey on the 18th to join Augusta National Women’s Amateur winner Tsubasa Kajitani as the Japanese champion on those pitches.

Turner’s work was just beginning. The 68-year-old American who befriended his Waseda teammates and still sees them as brothers decades later has had to guide his friend through a maze of media obligations.

“I’m not a translator,” Turner explained. “I could translate word for word. I am an interpreter. I hear what he says, and then I try to say it as an American, or someone who speaks English, would say the same feeling.

Turner takes pride in taking his player’s temperature and matching his pace. “I guess I’m treating him from here,” he said, showing his heart, “rather than from here,” he added, pointing to his head.

But before the post-tournament proceedings began, Hideki Matsuyama gave Bob Turner a warm hug behind the 18th green. No interpretation was required.

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