YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — U.S. and Japanese players will take part in an 18-hole youth tournament Saturday at nearby Tama Hills Golf Course.

It’s the third in a series of exchanges that began last spring at the Yokota Par 3 Course. This event is set to be the largest, with more than 70 boys and girls, ages 8 to 15, from Yokota, Tama City and the American School in Japan.

The outings aren’t really tournaments — at least not in a traditional sense — said Tama Hills Golf Course management assistant Crystal Brookover, a longtime employee at the facility operated by Yokota’s 374th Services Division.

“At this level, what we’d rather do is have a mix of kids where they can play the game, have different partners and get some good experience,” she said Thursday. “Make it fun. We don’t want to set them against each other at this age. This isn’t high-competitive golf. With golf, you either love it, or it’s frustrating. And we want to make it as enjoyable as possible.”

There was no registration for Saturday’s event, she added. Most players from the base are members of Yokota Middle School’s first-year squad.

The team is focused more on instruction over competition. It gets together weekly at Yokota but doesn’t play regular matches against other schools.

Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, the U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander, will take part in opening ceremonies Saturday. He’ll be joined by Col. Jeff Newell, the 374th Airlift Wing commander, and Tama City mayor Sachiko Watanabe.

“The strength of the U.S.-Japanese alliance is very visible in events like this … for our kids at Yokota and their Japanese neighbors. It’s encouraging to see them as ambassadors, building relations at their level through a fun event like golf,” Wright said.

Added Newell: “These activities are great opportunities to build personal relationships with our Japanese friends and neighbors.”

Brookover said the two Yokota gatherings were successful, and she expects Saturday to be no different.

“Even though they don’t speak the same language, they mesh pretty well. We’ve been delighted by the camaraderie,” she said. “There’s a certain decorum in golf, and that’s something we’ve really tried to push with the kids. They’ve been super. It’s not a big rivalry, and the kids have handled themselves very well.”

She said organizers may have open tournaments in the future in which all junior players from the base can sign up.

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