When you think of two things that shouldn’t really go together, you couldn’t come up with a worse pairing than professional golf and the mob. After all, it’s not the 1920’s anymore. Sadly, however, that is precisely what’s happened in Japan this week.
Several sites, including Sports Illustrated’s Golf.com, have reported that all 91 members of the Japanese PGA’s executive committee, all the way to the chairman and board of directors, will be stepping down from their posts in an attempt to restore the Japanese public’s faith in the organization.
The whole scandal arose when two executives were discovered to have had social dinners and golf outings with the head of a yakuza group. Japan has worked hard to separate itself from the dark image of organized crime, so this is a much bigger issue on a cultural scale than a sporting one, but the two cannot be separated. The men who were directly involved were actually booted from the PGA months ago, but this is a move meant to restore honor and dignity to the Association.
The best news in this scandal, thankfully, is that none of Japan’s golfers seem to be implicated in any dirty dealings. Having an up-and-comer like Ryo Ishikawa, Hideki Matsuyama, or even a former PGA Tour winner like Shigeki Maruyama involved with one of the deadliest crime organizations in the world could turn this into an international incident.
With the popularity of golf at an all-time high, and Japan as one of the biggest growing markets for the sport, this incident is certainly not what the game needs overseas, but hopefully it is nothing more than an isolated incident caused by a few people who just wanted to make the right “friends”.