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Dec 26

Crime and Golf – Japanese PGA Cleaning House

Japanese PGA All Quit

Most of us grew up in the television age, and have seen all the archetypal signs of organized crime. It runs the gamut, from machine gun blasts and shiny black Duesenbergs screaming around the city corners of Chicago to Marlon Brando’s brooding expressions and mumbled ethnic dialects.

In the world of sports, we know some of the places where the mafia, or cosa nostra has regularly operated. We expect it from time to time around the boxing ring, and the film world is full of examples that glorify the sometimes corrupt fight game. Even college football is increasingly at risk, but golf? C’mon. Nobody ever sneaks up to a professional golfer in the middle of the night and says “Mugsy wants yes to t’row da 4th hole – der’s a trip to da Bahamas in it fer ya.” There are no black-suited scar-faces hanging around Augusta or Pebble Beach…are there?

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viol. 2 Now cheating and golf – sure. For many, the hardest part of an already horrendously difficult game is to make one’s self obey its rules, and they are strict. There’s a rule for everything. Violence in the public eye, however, has been minimal, and when we think of sports having a dark underbelly, it’s hard to think of the smiling faces of Padraig Harrington or Lexi Thompson at the same time. Besides, it would be next to impossible to select a person for taking a dive. Until they got on the course, how would you know who to talk to? Who knows who the leader or challenger will be? With Ali and Frazier, you were at least down to two choices.

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In Japan, however, a shock wave has gone through the monitoring organization, the Japanese PGA, which has a lot of good stuff going and a lot of good people playing the game – except that they quit – they all quit – all ninety one of them quit. Why? Because a little while back, two people within the organization, Shinsaku Maeda and Todayashi Bando had lunch with and played a little golf with a leading figure in the Yakusa, the Japanese Mafia. It takes your mind right away from little black golf carts careening around the course with flurries of tommy gun fire to sword-laden ninjas sneaking up on a bunker shot. I’d want to know what that fourteenth club in the bag is.

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viol. 3
Believe it or not, this wasn’t something that the Japanese PGA just frowned on. They actually have a rule for this, too. You just can’t associate with organized crime, even if you don’t play any golf. Having lunch at the club might be good enough for you to get the axe…in the figurative sense, at least.

And here’s the kicker for a westerner, and we should pay attention and learn something from this. The Japanese organization wants so badly to maintain the cleanliness of the game, that even though the two culprits were ejected from the Association, everybody else in a position of leadership is going to fall on his sword as well, pending the election of an all new panel of brass, from chairman to vice-chairman to board members. Unless there’s something else going on there that I don’t know about, that’s quite a statement on behalf of the national game.

In all seriousness, mafia involvement is usually at the corporate, institutional level, not so much what we see on TV. It’s hard to detect, hard to apprehend, and hard to root out. So baffled as I am by the move, I’m also impressed that this collective action is being taken willingly. Further, as a westerner and American, the obvious question follows – could we get Congress to do this?


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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.