Patrick Bowman, the pro of the Air Force’s Tama Hills Golf Course in Tokyo, speaks to an official prior to the PGA Tour’s Zozo Championship at Narashino Country Club in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, Thursday October 21, 2021. (Seth Robson / Stars and stripes)
NARASHINO COUNTRY CLUB, Japan – Forty US military volunteers mingle with the world’s top professional golfers in only the second PGA Tour event to be held in Japan.
The first Zozo Championship to be held just outside Tokyo in Chiba Prefecture was won by Tiger Woods in 2019. Last year’s event was relocated to California due to the coronavirus pandemic, but 78 of the world’s top golfers are back in Japan this year to tournament.
The event, which began Thursday and will last through Sunday, will feature U.S. military golfers working at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo and the Yokosuka Naval Base, Naval Air Facility Atsugi, and Camp Zama of the U.S. Army in the nearby prefecture Kanagawa are stationed.
The honorary scorekeepers, shot spotters and cart drivers also offer English-speaking support for tournament officials and employees of the US broadcaster NBC.
Patrick Bowman, the pro at the Air Force’s Tama Hills Golf Course in Tokyo, put together the roster of volunteers. He and Jon Stillabower, operations manager of the Marine Corps’ Taiyo Golf Course in Okinawa, also volunteered at the Tokyo Olympic golf tournaments at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama Prefecture this summer.
At a meeting on Wednesday evening near the Chiba venue, Bowman told a group of volunteers, including this Stars and Stripes reporter, that they are looking forward to a happy week and “all the stories we have afterwards.”
Woods’ victory in 2019 made golf history. It was his 82nd PGA Tour win that broke the all-time record set by Sam Snead.
Open champion Collin Morikawa tees off at the Zozo Championship at Narashino Country Club in Chiba Prefecture, Japan on Thursday, October 21, 2021. (Seth Robson / Stars and Stripes)
One of the Zozo volunteers, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brett Medford, 24, from Los Angeles, watched the final round of Woods in 2019 while stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea.
Medford, a 9-handicapper at NAF Atsugi Golf Club who hit golf balls off the deck of the Ronald Reagan while on stints with fellow sailors, said he was looking forward to seeing Rickie Fowler, the 2015 Players Championship winner.
“I like the bragging he brings to the game,” said Medford.
This year’s Zozo field includes Hideki Matsuyama, who became the first Japanese player to win a major golf tournament when he won the Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia, in April.
Also there are the two-time major winner Collin Morikawa, who took first place at The Open Championship in Sandwich, England, in July, and compatriot Xander Schauffele, who won gold for Team USA at the Olympic Games.
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