Sports Stars

'Jumbo' Ozaki

(Tokushima Prefecture, 1947- )

'Jumbo' OzakiThe eldest of three golfing brothers, Masashi Ozaki, nicknamed 'Jumbo' for his driving ability, is the most successful golfer in Japanese history. He has won over 90 tournaments and frequently tops the money rankings, even at an age when other golfers are moving to the senior tour. Jumbo is regularly in the top twenty of the world rankings, although strictly on the basis of his performance on the Japanese circuit. Because the man who dominates the sport in his home country has failed miserably abroad, winning only two minor tournaments. In this sense, he has been eclipsed abroad by such young golfers as Maruyama Shigeki and his own brothers Tateo (Jet) and Naomichi (Joe). But Jumbo remains the face of golf in Japan. With his laid-back, chain-smoking style, he embodies the ideal character for the average middle-aged salaryman, who would much rather being out on the links than stuck in his office doing overtime.

Ozaki was a high-school baseball star and even went on to play professionally as a pitcher from 1965 to '67. He took up professional golf at the age of 23 and won the Japan Pro Golf Championship the next year. He soon became the highest-earning golfer in Japan and in 1988, he became the first Japanese golfer to win three tournaments in consecutive weeks, including the Japan Open. He has won the Japan Open a total of five times, while younger brother Naomichi won in 1999, with Jumbo tied for fourth and Tateo tied for fifith.