Tokyo, Japan (May 9): The Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) boasts many jewels in its tournament crown. But few have shone quite so brightly as the Diamond Cup.
A high-profile professional championship that is co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour Organisation and the Asian Tour, to say the Diamond Cup is steeped in history and tradition is an under-statement.
Dating back to 1969, the Diamond Cup has endured changes, challenges and hardships over the course of the past five decades.
Its past may be clouded in complications but the fact that it continues to stand proud and strong is, first and foremost, a testament to the wherewithal and unstinting support of the Japan Golf Association (JGA), the glue that has held this remarkable tournament together.
In an ever-changing world, the JGA has been the one constant as the tournament has evolved through a plethora of guises, title-sponsorships, mergers, reincarnations and partnerships, remaining as one of the JGA’s four National Championships, alongside the Japan Open, Japan Women’s Open and Japan Senior Open.
No wonder the Diamond Cup is revered and holds such a special place in the hearts and minds of golfers and golf fans in Japan and around Asia.
Andy Yamanaka, the JGA’s Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, said: “Given its rich history, the Diamond Cup is truly unique. Over the years, it’s been the intention for the Diamond Cup to contribute to society through a series of charity activities, a commitment to preserve our natural environment as well as focusing on making a regional contribution through the development of junior and amateur golfers.
“The JGA, meanwhile, is proud to be a member of the APGC. As one of the leading golfing countries in Asia, it’s important for us to contribute and give something back to help golf develop around the region. One of those ways is through the Diamond Cup where a number of exemptions are allocated to the APGC for them to invite leading amateurs from the region to participate.”
Taimur Hassan Amin, the APGC’s Chairman, said: “We’re fortunate to have such a special bond with the Japan Golf Association and appreciate all the efforts they make for the betterment of golf, not only in Japan, but across the region. The APGC is especially grateful to them for the generous Diamond Cup gesture. I know our leading players strive to receive an invite and for those that are lucky enough to get it, playing the tournament is one of the highlights of the year.”
Inaugurated as the Dunlop Tournament, it has in the ensuing 51 years, been variously called Mitsubishi Galant Tournament, Mitsubishi Motors Tournament, Diamond Cup Tournament, Mitsubishi Diamond Cup Golf, Diamond Cup Golf and, since 2014, the Asia-Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup Golf.
Past champions include dozens of legendary figures including Japanese all-time greats Masashi ‘Jumbo’ Ozaki, Tsuneyuki ‘Tommy’ Nakajima and Isao Aoki and Major champions Peter Thomson and Todd Hamilton.
In 2013, a rising star of world golf named Hideki Matsuyama was added to the roll of honour. A two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC), Matsuyama turned professional in April that year and won his second professional tournament, the Tsuruya Open. Five weeks later, at the start of June, Matsuyama triumphed by two strokes in the Diamond Cup.
From an APGC perspective, the success of Matsuyama was especially poignant, not only given his AAC triumphs but also because the Confederation’s links with the JGA go all the way back to the early 1960s and the formation of the Asia Golf Circuit (AGC), conducted under the auspices of the APGC.
Staged in the first quarter of 1962, the inaugural AGC schedule was made up of the national Open championships of the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong with the Yomiuri Kokusai (International) Open in Japan acting as the concluding leg.
With the Japan Open traditionally held later in the year, the JGA, one of the founding members of the APGC, created the Yomiuri Kokusai Open specially to join the AGC. As part of the arrangement, it was agreed that the APGC would be allocated a number of exemptions for leading amateurs from member nations.
In 1973 the Yomiuri Kokusai Open was replaced by the Sobu Kokusai (International) Open which, in turn, was replaced on the AGC by the Dunlop International Open in 1977. That morphed into the Dunlop Open in 1990 until Kirin Beer assumed title-sponsorship in 1996 with the event being renamed as the Kirin Open, which became the Asia Pacific Open Golf Kirin Open in 2000. It was held for the final time in 2001 when Shingo Katayama made a successful title defence.
In challenging economic times, it proved impossible to find a backer until the Asia-Pacific Open Golf Championship Panasonic Open was launched in 2008.
Meanwhile, the Diamond Cup had been founded in 1973 and travelled throughout Japan with different courses hosting the event on all four major islands. In 2004, it became the Mitsubishi Diamond Cup, returning to Diamond Cup Golf in 2010.
And so it remained until 2014 when there was a marriage between the Diamond Cup Golf and Asia-Pacific Open Golf Championship. Under guidance from the JGA, the two events merged into the Asia-Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup Golf, in partnership with the Mitsubishi Corporation and Osaka-based Kansai Television Co Ltd. Adding to its prestige and kudos, the Diamond Cup was recognised by The R&A last year with the enticement of an invitation to the champion to compete in The Open.
Although the seventh edition – originally scheduled to take place from May 7-10 – has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Yamanaka is bullish for the future of the event.
He said: “The Asia-Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup Golf has a remarkable past and we are committed to ensuring it has a glittering future. We look forward to the tournament returning to the calendar in 2021 – better and stronger than ever.”