Japan’s Ayako Okamoto was 20 years old and playing a softball tournament in Hawaii when she had her first experience with golf. When she looked out the window of the hotel, there was a green below. She and her teammates decided to go play on it. They got in a lot of trouble. It was an inauspicious introduction for Okamoto, a player who would carry the hopes and dreams of a nation obsessed with golf and hungry for recognition in America.
Okamoto’s team won the national championship in 1971. She was Japan’s star pitcher. “The upshoot was my best pitch,” she says. At 22, Okamoto grew tired of pitching softballs and decided to go play on the green permanently.
A left-handed pitcher for Daiwabo textile’s softball team, Okamoto learned golf with right-handed clubs and never gave them up. Her company owned a golf course and practice range adjacent to her work location, where she made a seemingly effortless transition to golf.