Exclusive: Hideki Matsuyama’s caddie, Shota Hayafuji, opens up about his Masters bow

Hideki Matsuyama’s caddie Shota Hayafuji explained his Masters bow to The Caddie Network, saying, “my heart was full of gratitude.” Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

If you watched the Masters or have been on golf Twitter in the past week, then you’ve surely seen the wonderful image from Masters Sunday of Hideki Matsuyama’s caddie Shota Hayafuji respectfully grabbing the pin flag on 18, removing his hat and bowing to Augusta National.

The video on CBS Sports’ Twitter handle has 2.7 million views and that’s just one of many platforms fans have chosen to digest that poignant piece of golf history.

So, after the biggest loop of his life around the world’s greatest course, what was Hayafuji feeling and thinking as he took his bow to the course?

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“My heart was full of gratitude and it was the natural thing for me to bow and show respect to the Masters,” Hayafuji said in an email this week through interpreter Bob Turner. “I was saying ‘Thank you very much!’”

Golf fans could almost feel Hayafuji saying that as he purposefully put the pin back in the hole and took his signature green Masters hat off for a bow to Augusta National.

Minutes later, he would be walking off of 18 and hugging members of the Matsuyama team. After a long week for them all and undoubtedly a monumental week for the country of Japan, Hayafuji said his favorite part of the week was embracing the team in those precious minutes in the immediate aftermath.

And after such a massive accomplishment, one has to wonder what the celebration was like for Hideki and Shota on Sunday night. Apparently, there wasn’t much to it.

“We really didn’t celebrate as we were all busy packing and getting ready to go back to Japan,” Hayafuji said. They flew from Atlanta to Chicago and then on to Japan.

But after winning the Masters, there was no thought to take a private jet back to Japan instead of flying commercial? You know, kick back and celebrate a little?

“We were always planning to fly commercial all the way to Japan. On the plane to Japan a lot of people congratulated Hideki,” Hayafuji said. “It was amazing.”

If you’re a golf fan, you have at least an idea of how popular golf is in Japan, and one would figure that Matsuyama’s team would get almost a Beatles-like reception when they landed coming back with the country’s first green jacket.

But, during these COVID times, that was not the case.

“Because of the COVID restrictions, there wasn’t anyone at the Tokyo airport when we arrived but I was glad to see the coverage of our homecoming on TV and internet news,” Hayafuji said.

And team Matsuyama’s Masters celebration continues to be put on hold as both Hayafuji and Matsuyama are quarantining in their first couple weeks back in Japan.

Hayafuji is in his third year caddying for Matsuyama and the two have known each other since junior high school in Japan. They both went on to the same high school and then eventually to the same Tohoku Fukushi University as well.

As far as what his former classmate’s Masters win means for Japan, Hayafuji simply called the win “historic” for their country.

Hideki Matsuyama celebrates with his caddie Shota Hayafuji and The Master trophy after winning The Masters golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Of course Tokyo will serve host to the upcoming Olympics this summer as well in Tokyo, about a 10-hour drive from Matsuyama’s childhood home in Ehime, Japan, so that figures to be a big week for team Matsuyama as well.

Going back to the Masters win for a moment, Hayafuji looks back on the biggest challenges of caddying during Masters week as some of the things you might expect.

“It has to be the elevation changes and the wind was really tough to figure during the week,” Hayafuji said of looping in his third Masters.

There were some elevation changes Matsuyama and Hayafuji dealt with on 15 on Sunday when Matsuyama went long and into the water on his second shot, which led to a bogey.

During perhaps the most critical juncture of Masters Sunday, how did Hayafuji calm his player down? Apparently there wasn’t much that happened in their conversations because Hayafuji says he didn’t even remember their exchange.

“I really don’t remember much of what was said,” Hayafuji said. “I just tried to do what I usually do and not say anything out of the ordinary.”

The Matsuyama win was anything but ordinary, and now, they’re hoping soon, they will be able to give this occasion the celebration it deserves.

COMMENTS

  1. He’s even wearing a caddie network shirt when they were celebrating with the trophy under his caddie whites. Thats awesome!

  2. True Gentleman !!!
    Hopefully going forward that same reverence for both the game and the golf course will be apparent. Those ideals are what the Wonderful World of Golf is truly all about.
    A time honored tradition is the essence of the game.
    Thank you to their team for showing the World what RESPECT is all about. 👍

  3. I am so happy not to be reading any sort of criticism concerning the bow. We Americans can learn so much from other cultures if we are willing. I was pleased to see these gentlemen in the trophy booth.

  4. It was a very respectful moment in the history of the Masters. True gentleman. We can ALL learn from this – respect goes a long way.

  5. As a Japanese, myself, bowing to golf course seems natural to me. It shows Japanese POV for religion.
    Japanese has basic religious idea that we have 8 million gods in everywhere.
    We have the God of Mountain, forest, sea, samurai sword, sewing needles,,, let’s say in everything.
    And of course we show our respect to them, sometimes which is a kind of animism of us.

    1. The bow was a beautiful moment, for the win, for the winner, for the course, and for the game. In fact, it may well be the finest moment of the tournament. Such things should be remembered, and could become a standard for future events everywhere. The beauty of it has roots.

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