Herbert Warren Wind’s Sunday Golf in Japan

We recently obtained a copy of the 1957 Canada Cup program held at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Tokyo. We thought it would be an interesting read with the Olympic golf event returning to Japan in 2020 at this C.H. Alison designed course. It was.

The cover of the 1957 Canada Cup Program

The thick 198-page color program turned out to exceed our expectations, as it includes full page letters/messages to the contestants from President Dwight Eisenhower, Bobby Jones, and Ben Hogan, as well as a full-page picture of the Japanese crown prince. The tournament was started with an idealistic notion, golf as a means to spread international goodwill in the post-war period. The inaugural Canada Cup was in 1953 and is it known today as the World Cup.

The real discovery in the program, though, was an essay by Herbert Warren Wind, where he recounts his time spent in Japan in the military. All of Wind’s writings are good, and his previous lesser-known articles appearing in Walker Cup programs are always a delight to discover. In our view, what makes this article different than many of his other works is that he is writing about his own life. Most of his writings were about other players or courses. This one gives some interesting insights into the man, whose musings about his game sound more like fellow Baystater John Updike than Wind’s typical writing, although it is on the same high level.

Wind’s essay in the program is in its entirety below:

Sunday Golf in Japan

“Shortly after the conclusion of World War II, I was stationed in Tokyo for about ten months, serving as one of the numerous army lieutenants attached, in that heyday of initialed organizations, to CI & E (Civil Information and Education) division of SCAP (Supreme Commander Allied Powers). I can well remember my feelings during that stretch of duty, I was, on one hand, unhappy and fretful about many things: not being home and out of the army after a long previous hitch overseas; having to move nine times in nine months; and my inability to be a “smart operator”—for, much as I tried, my most brilliant coup was merely acquisition of a box seat for the baseball games at Korakuen Stadium while the really gifted operators were sweeping out to the countryside on weekends in luxurious private railroad cars. On the other side, there was the sheer stimulation of being in Japan at such an historic period; some parts of my work (which had to do with the reestablishing of Japanese broadcasting); and the occasional good times (though, to tell the truth, they were pretty damned occasional).

These unusual circumstances made life unusually confusing, and one of the very few things I remember as being an unalloyed pleasure was the Sunday golf. Every Sunday when the weather wasn’t dead against us, MacHarlan, an aging colleague, and I used to play at the Koganei Golf Club, about an hour by jeep out of the city. Tokyo in those days was, of course, a depressing city. Block after block had been razed, leaving only the tall, ominous chimneys standing. It was good for a person to get out of town, and it was especially good to get onto a golf course, even a layout where nine holes were still unplayable (they had been used for growing vegetables during the war) and where the remaining nine holes were pretty bare and uninviting. But golf is golf. Just wrapping your hands around a club can make you feel like a million dollars. Hitting that occasional good shot gives you that same unreasonably deep feeling of satisfaction. And most important of all, the people around golf courses are very much the same the world over. Any golf course, as a result, is home to a golfer.

In my own case, the Koganei golf course was one of the few places I found myself speaking the rudimentary and halting Japanese I had been taught in a special training school. I never ventured to use it for business purposes—things were rough enough without complicating them further—but I used to like to throw a phrase around here and there on the golf course. You have to communicate when you play golf. When you’ve just got a lousy kick after a beautifully executed intentional (or maybe not so intentional) fade, you’ve got to be able to describe the feeling to your caddy and to explain where the ball would have finished if there was any justice in the world. Of course, I understood Japanese much better on the golf course than anyplace else, since I knew what was coming—the Japanese phrase for “You picked your head up” after any bad shot, the Japanese phrase for “Hit another” when you obviously had to, etc. The caddies were, all in all, a very compassionate bunch. Whenever any of us would produce a shot that was even remotely good, they’d erupt with “Jozu desu,” meaning “Very skillfully done.” That never hurts, nor did the fact that most of the caddies were young girls, very appealing kids.

The point is an old one and need not be labored: properly handled, sports are a wonderful and an honest common meeting ground for people the world over. As regards Japan in particular, most of us who were there during the Occupation were convinced that, while many of the pseudo-Western attitudes the Japanese had rushed into were artificial and had been bad for the nation, the people’s love of Western sports was incredibly genuine and absolutely natural, as instinctive for the boy in Utsunomiya as the boy in Indiana. I am delighted that the International Golf Association will be staging the Canada Cup in Japan this fall. I hope to be able to attend, not only for the considerable pleasure of returning to Japan but also because this competition should be nothing less than the greatest sports event that has ever taken place in the Far East.”

We miss you Herb!

— John Sabino

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Valuable Book Group specializes in rare, collectible and valuable golf books. We are avid collectors ourselves obsessed not only with playing the game, but also its history and the literature of the game.
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