Gene Sarazen Jun Classic (Japan Golf Tour)

The Gene Sarazen Jun Classic was a men's professional golf tournament played for 23 years (beginning in the mid-to-late 1970s) as part of the Japan Golf Tour schedule. It honored Sarazen, the American golf star whose career began in the 1920s.

First played: 1977

Last played: 1999

Why was a Japanese tournament named after Gene Sarazen? Sarazen served as a consultant on the design of the golf course where the tournament was usually played, the Jun Classic Country Club. When the club launched the tournament, it chose to honor Sarazen, one of the most-famous golfers in the world at the time although he was already in his 70s. The tournament began one year after Sarazen's final appearance in the British Open, and it ended in the year of Sarazen's death.

The inaugural champ was Isao Aoki. Aoki won a second time in 1980, beating runner-up Seve Ballesteros by one stroke.

The biggest winner in the event was Jumbo Ozaki, who took the title five times. Jumbo's first win was in 1983 via playoff; his last in 1996 was by six strokes, the tournament's margin-of-victory record. The other Ozaki brothers got in on the winning, too: Joe Ozaki was the winner in 1989, Jet Ozaki in 1990 (and Jumbo's fourth win followed in 1991). In 1989, Jet beat Joe in a playoff. Jumbo Ozaki was also runner-up three times, including losing a playoff to T.C. Chen in 1992.

A handful of golfers from outside Japan also won, including Payne Stewart in 1985 when weather conditions led to a three-way tie. It was Stewart's only victory in Japan.

The tournament's 72-hole scoring record of 270 was first established by Satoshi Higashi in 1995 and tied by Todd Hamilton in 1999.

Also known as: The tournament debuted in 1977 under the name Gene Sarazen Golf Classic. But the "Gene Sarazen Jun Classic" name was used in all years after.

Winners of the Gene Sarazen Jun Classic

1977 — Isao Aoki, 277
1978 — Kesahiko Uchida, 281 (def. Katsuji Hasegawa, Shoji Kikuchi in playoff)
1979 — Kuo Chie-Hsiung, 248 (63 holes, shortened due to weather; def. Yasuhiro Funatogawa in playoff)
1980 — Isao Aoki, 277
1981 — Nobumitsu Yuhara, 284
1982 — Teruo Sugihara, 275
1983 — Jumbo Ozaki, 288 (def. Massy Kuramoto in playoff)
1984 — Shinsaku Maeda, 278
1985 — (tie) Kazushige Kono, Massy Kuramoto, Payne Stewart, 209 (54 holes, shortened due to weather, no playoff)
1986 — Jumbo Ozaki, 279
1987 — Jumbo Ozaki, 204 (54 holes, shortened due to weather)
1988 — Toru Nakamura, 240 (63 holes, shortened due to weather)
1989 — Jet Ozaki, 279 (def. Joe Ozaki in playoff)
1990 — Joe Ozaki, 273
1991 — Jumbo Ozaki, 277 (def. Ryoken Kawagishi in playoff)
1992 — T.C. Chen, 277 (def. Jumbo Ozaki)
1993 — Toru Suzuki, 276
1994 — Carlos Franco, 272
1995 — Satoshi Higashi, 270
1996 — Jumbo Ozaki, 197 (54 holes, shortened due to weather)
1997 — Eduardo Herrera, 276
1998 — Todd Hamilton, 270
1999 — Hajime Meshiai, 277 (def. Hirofumi Miyase)

Golf courses: The original golf course, and the one primarily used throughout the Gene Sarazen Jun Classic's run, was the Jun Classic Country Club in Ogawa, Tochigi Prefecture. But the Rope Club in Shioya, Tochigi, also was the site several times (1990-94, 1997, 1998).

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