US military golf fans lend a hand during PGA Tour’s Zozo Championship in Japan
NARASHINO COUNTRY CLUB, Japan — Forty volunteers from the U.S. military community are mingling with the world’s top professional golfers at only the second PGA Tour event to be held in Japan.
The first Zozo Championship, which is held just outside Tokyo in Chiba prefecture, was won by Tiger Woods in 2019. Last year’s event was moved to California due to the coronavirus pandemic, but 78 of the world’s top golfers are back in Japan for this year’s tournament.
Working at the event, which began Thursday and runs through Sunday, are U.S. military golfers stationed at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo and Yokosuka Naval Base, Naval Air Facility Atsugi and the U.S. Army’s Camp Zama in nearby Kanagawa prefecture.
The volunteer scorekeepers, shot-spotters and cart drivers also provide English-language assistance to tournament officials and staff from U.S. broadcaster NBC.
Patrick Bowman, the professional at the Air Force’s Tama Hills Golf Course in Tokyo, assembled the volunteer cadre. He and Jon Stillabower, operations manager at the Marine Corps’ Taiyo Golf Course on Okinawa, also volunteered during the Tokyo Olympic golf tournaments this summer at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama prefecture.
At a get-together Wednesday night near the tournament venue in Chiba, Bowman told a group of volunteers that included this Stars and Stripes reporter to look forward to a happy week and “all the stories we have afterwards.”
Woods’ 2019 win in the event made golf history. It was his 82nd PGA Tour victory, tying the all-time record set by Sam Snead.
One of the Zozo volunteers, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brett Medford, 24, of Los Angeles, watched Woods’ final round in 2019 while deployed on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea.
Medford, a 9 handicapper at NAF Atsugi Golf Club, and who has hit golf balls off the Ronald Reagan’s deck with other sailors during deployments, said he’s excited to see Rickie Fowler, winner of the 2015 Players Championship.
“I like the swagger he brings to the game,” Medford said.
This year’s Zozo field includes Hideki Matsuyama, who became the first Japanese player to win a major golf tournament when he won April’s Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga.
It also features two-time major winner Collin Morikawa, who placed first at July’s The Open Championship in Sandwich, England, and compatriot Xander Schauffele, who took gold for Team USA at the Olympics.