On October 26, the U.S.-Japan Council hosted an exclusive virtual interview with pro golfer Collin Morikawa for an open and candid discussion about sports and identity. This event marked the newest installment of the “Japanese American Stars” series, a panel usually featured at the USJC Annual Conference, where Japanese American actors, athletes, entrepreneurs and other “stars” share insights into their lives and the ways in which they feel affected by their heritage. Though this event was held over Zoom, it welcomed over 200 live audience members, who were able to ask questions.
As with previous “Japanese American Stars” panels, the event was moderated by Emmy award-winning Member of the USJC Legacy Council Jan Yanehiro (JALD ’10). USJC Board Member Rona Tison, Executive Vice President – Corporate Relations at ITO EN (North America) Inc., offered welcome remarks.
Mr. Morikawa, who is of Japanese and Chinese descent, has reached incredible fame at only 23 years old, after turning professional just last year. Most famous among his many noteworthy accomplishments within his short career in professional golf is his recent win of the 2020 PGA Championship.
“Golf is probably more than 50% mental. A lot of it comes down to how you think through the shots, how you’re on the course, how you can handle yourself,” he commented when Ms. Yanehiro asked about his mindset during the game. He reflected on how there are many talented junior-level golfers, and how it can often just take confidence to make it pro. “The biggest aspect on how to prepare is just to believe in yourself.”
Mr. Morikawa shared his thoughts on the topic of discrimination within the professional golf world, and said that he was grateful that he has felt little to no racial discrimination within the PGA Tour. As the professional golf world has yet to reflect much diversity in its top players, he hopes he can use his voice and be a positive example for young people. Ultimately, he hopes everyone – including himself – can continue to learn and grow to create a more inclusive and diversity-affirming society.
On his Japanese identity, Mr. Morikawa says his first visit to Japan was only several years ago. The Japanese side of his family hails from Hawaii and California, without known relatives currently in Japan. Being able to step foot in Japan was a special memory and gave him a chance to explore his heritage. “When you go over there – and that was the first time I was there – there was an instant connection, and that was something I had never felt,” he said. “It felt amazing… I felt that love. I felt that this is where my heritage and my life has started.”
Where does he see himself in the future? “Still playing golf. Hopefully I’m number one in the world!” But more importantly, he also hopes to build himself and grow as a person. He concluded with his admiration for Kobe Bryant, who he noted was not just an athlete, but someone who gave back to his community – which is the kind of role model he hopes to become as well. He also shared two other passions he pursues in his free time: fostering homeless dogs and trying new local foods.
The video is available for viewing here.