Matsuyama lifts Silver Cup at Masters

Japanese teenager Hideki Matsuyama lifted the Silver Cup for the Low Amateur at the Masters Tournament, which concluded at Augusta National last night. The 19-year-old from Tohoku Fukushi University in the Tsunami-hit city of Sendai, finished tied-27th on one under par, tied with 2010 champion Phil Mickelson and first-round co-leader Alvaro Quiros.

“It was a special week for me,” said Matsuyama, who earned his Masters invitation courtesy of a five-shot victory in the Asian Amateur Championship at Kasumigaseki Country Club, last year. “I enjoyed it so much. At the same time I’ve never felt this tired.”

Matsuyama shot a 68 in Saturday’s third round, a tie for the second-lowest round of the day, before closing with a 72nd-hole birdie for a 74. A recipient of R&A Foundation Scholarship funding amounting to £3,000 per academic year, the World Amateur Golf Ranking number 54 is set to make a dramatic leap up the Ranking when it is published on Wednesday [13 April].

“This Masters outing made me think there’s much more room to improve in my game,” said the first Japanese amateur to contest the Masters. “I’ll try to win the Asian Amateur again to come back here.

“I hope my success here will bring some joy, happiness and hope to my fellow Japanese in a very difficult time.”

Matsuyama had endured a traumatic build up to the Tournament, only making a last-minute decision to take his place at Augusta National. He had spent much of the preceding three weeks searching for friends and classmates in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that had affected much of Japan.

“I couldn’t believe this was the city where I live,” said Matsuyama, who will travel back to Sendai to help with the clean-up. “It was devastated. Just beyond imagination.

Speaking early last week, he said: “I’m not sure I should play at the Masters, even at this very moment. Still, I’ve decided to play. So many people have pushed me; my teammates, my parents. I’m here for the people who made me who I am.

Fellow Japanese 19-year-old Ryo Ishikawa, who will donate all of his 2011 earnings to the disaster relief effort, finished two shots ahead of his compatriot in a tie for 20th place on three under par.

And, while pleased with his own performance, Ishikawa was quick to praise his amateur counterpart. “I’m happy for him…I understand that he’s making the history for the Japanese amateurs,” he said.

Amateur Champion Jin Jeong and World Amateur Golf Ranking Number One Peter Uihlein missed the cut, but, nevertheless performed admirably on one of the world’s most challenging stages.