Looking Back: Ube Kosan Open (Japan Pepsi Tournament)

The Ube Kosan Open, which, for many years, had Pepsi as a title sponsor, was a men's professional golf tournament in Japan. Part of the Japan Golf Tour, it was played for 40 years. Among its winners were Hall of Famers and two pairs of brothers. The tournament is most-famous for being the site of the longest sudden-death playoff in pro tour history.

First played: 1972

Last played: 2001

Tournament names and years: Pepsi Tournament, 1972-74; Pepsi-Wilson Tournament, 1975-81; Pepsi Ube Open, 1982-88; Pepsi Ube Kosan Open, 1989-90, 1992-96; Ube Kosan Open, 1991, 1997-2001.

Winners of Japan Pepsi Tournament/Ube Kosan Open

1972 — Peter Thomson, 279
1973 — Isao Aoki, 281 (def. Kosaku Shimada in playoff)
1974 — Graham Marsh, 284 (def. Yung-Yo Hsieh in playoff)
1975 — Yung-Yo Hsieh, 283
1976 — Peter Thomson, 211 (shortened to 54 holes by weather; Thomson def. Brian Jones, Graham Marsh and Shozo Miyamoto in playoff)
1977 — Masashi "Jumbo" Ozaki, 274
1978 — Masashi "Jumbo" Ozaki, 275
1979 — Mya Aye, 274
1980 — Norio Suzuki, 276
1981 — Graham Marsh, 270
1982 — Kikuo Arai, 277
1983 — Seiichi Kanai, 274
1984 — Yasuhiro Funatogawa, 272
1985 — Tze-Ming "T.M." Chen, 268
1986 — Naomichi "Joe" Ozaki, 276
1987 — Tze-Ming "T.M." Chen, 278 (def. Hiroshi Makino in playoff)
1988 — Mamoru Kondo, 169 (shortened to 45 holes by weather)
1989 — Akihito Yokoyama, 203 (shortened to 54 holes by weather)
1990 — Tadao Nakamura, 203 (shortened to 54 holes by weather)
1991 — Tze-Chung "T.C." Chen, 274
1992 — Tsuneyuki "Tommy" Nakajima, 275
1993 — Shigeki Maruyama, 264
1994 — Tsuneyuki "Tommy" Nakajima, 268
1995 — Mitsutaka Kusakabe, 206
1996 — Hidemichi Tanaka, 264
1997 — Shigenori Mori, 267
1998 — Brandt Jobe, 271
1999 — K.J. Choi, 272
2000 — Keiichiro Fukabori, 276
2001 — Dean Wilson, 267

This tournament debuted in 1972 with the name Pepsi Tournament, and its very first winner was one of the biggest names in golf at the time: Peter Thomson, 5-time British Open champ.

Thomson won again in 1976, when the tournament was named the Pepsi-Williams Tournament. Shortened by rain to 54 holes, Thomson and fellow Australians Brian Jones and Graham Marsh, plus Japan's Shozo Miyamato, tied at 211. They entered a sudden-death playoff that just kept going and going. Miyamoto dropped out first, then Jones. But Marsh and Thomson kept matching scores through 13 holes. Finally, Thomson won the "sudden"-death playoff with a par on the 14th extra hole. It was then, and remains today, the longest sudden-death playoff on any major world golf tour.

Thomson was the first golfer to win this event twice. No one ever won it three times, but four others also win it twice: Jumbo Ozaki, Graham Marsh, T.M. Chen and Tommy Nakajima.

Two sets of brothers were winners in the Ube Kosan Open, and we've already mentioned them: the Ozakis and the Chens. Jumbo Ozaki's younger brother Joe Ozaki also won. And T.M. Chen's younger brother T.C. Chen also won.

The tournament scoring record of 264 was first set by Shigeki Maruyama in 1993 (his first career win on the Japan Tour) and tied by Hidemichi Tanaka in 1996.

Aside from Jumbo Ozaki and Thomson, the other biggest-name winner was Isao Aoki, whose victory in 1973 was the second of his 51 career Japan Tour wins. Thomson's second win in that 1976 playoff was the last of his nearly 100 career wins in non-senior tournaments.

And when Mya Aye won in 1979, he became the first golfer from Burma (now named Myanmar) to win on the Japan Tour.

Golf courses: The course most often played in this tournament was the one that had its name in the tournament title for many years: Ube 72 Country Club in Ube, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Ube 72 was the site in 1976, 1978, and yearly from 1980 through the tournament's end in 2001. The tournament debuted at Yokohama Country Club in Kanagawa Prefecture, and was played there in 1972-73, 1975 and 1977. Hachinohe Country Club (Aomori Pr.) and Katayamazu Golf Club (Ishikawa Pr.) also had single years of use.

Japan Golf Tour. Tour schedules and tournament summaries, Ube Kosan Open, https://www.jgto.org/en/tournament?tourna_kbn_id=1&year=1991.
McCormack, Mark H. The World of Professional Golf 1991*, Chapmans Publishing, 1991.
Sydney Morning Herald. "Thomson wins 14-hole play-off," May 24, 1976, https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=H_5jAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iuYDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6704%2C8250974
World Golf Hall of Fame. "Isao Aoki," https://worldgolfhalloffame.org/isao-aoki/
World Golf Hall of Fame. "Peter Thomson," https://worldgolfhalloffame.org/peter-thomson/
(*affiliate link, commissions earned)

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