The 2019 ISPS Handa Watch World Cup pro-am golf tournament was held on Nov. 4 and 5 at Taiheiyo Club Gotemba West. The course is located in the scenic foothills of majestic Mount Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture.
The event was sponsored by International Sports Promotion Society, a sports charity founded and chaired by Japanese philanthropist Haruhisa Handa, and Misuzu Corp., a timepiece company that he helms.
ISPS Handa supports an array of international organizations and events. The charity emphasizes helping those with disabilities enjoy and participate in sports through activities, including golf for the blind and disabled.
Handa believes in the power of sport to bring people of diverse backgrounds together. “It has the power to connect people,” he said at a dinner for participants on day one of the competition.
Highlighting the festive nature of the tournament, Handa entered the dinner venue trailed by hip-shaking, feather-clad Brazilian samba dancers and in a sequined jacket — all to enthusiastic applause.
Handa has ties with numerous global figures in politics, sports and even royalty who are working to promote his charities.
Peter Phillips — son of Queen Elizabeth’s daughter, Princess Anne — praised those efforts.
“On behalf of all us here and who represent ISPS Handa, we all fundamentally believe in the power of sport to change lives and that is why we all support Dr. Handa and all his initiatives across the world,” Phillips, an ISPS Handa honorary ambassador and ISPS Handa U.K. patron, said in dinner remarks.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, another ISPS Handa patron, also lauded Handa. “Your generosity is incredible,” Key said.
Tournament participants included Nick Faldo and Ernie Els, both multiple winners of major men’s golf tournaments. Ladies Professional Golf Association stars Lexi Thompson, Lydia Ko and Minjee Lee also graced the fairways.
World Golf Hall of Fame member Masashi “Jumbo” Ozaki and Miki Sakai, who competes on the Ladies PGA of Japan tour, were among local stars on the links.
Faldo said athletes want to improve people’s lives by giving something back to those who struggle.
“We feel very fortunate from our careers but we also, (as) sportsmen, are very powerful because we saw last week in the rugby how sport can bridge divisions in countries, political divisions or race divisions,” he said after his second-day round, referring to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“Drinking clean water, breathing fresh air and eating a decent meal should not be a luxury,” he added. “That should be just standard on this planet. And for billions of people that really is a luxury.”
Rugby luminaries participating included Francois Pienaar, who captained South Africa to the championship in 1995, a feat immortalized in the Clint Eastwood-directed film “Invictus” starring Matt Damon as Pienaar and Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela.
Pienaar, elated at South Africa’s 2019 RWC championship, praised as “magnificent” comments by Siya Kolisi, the country’s first black rugby captain, who in his post-victory interview described how the team of different races and backgrounds united to win.
“We all have differences, but if we work together for a greater good the world will be a better place,” Pienaar said at dinner after the first day of the golf tourney.
Handa, who admires Mandela, also cited South Africa’s 1995 rugby win for its contribution in helping overcome the divisions of apartheid and as an example of the transformative power of athletic endeavor.
“Truly, sports unites the people, sports unites the nations,” he said.
Handa and his organization do “… an incredible job of showing the power of sports and getting people into sports whether they have disabilities or not,” said Ko, from New Zealand. She also praised ISPS Handa’s support for the New Zealand Olympic Committee and other efforts in her country.
Argentine pro golfer Emiliano Grillo said he is so inspired by ISPS Handa’s charitable activities that he plans to set up his own foundation in the future.
“Hopefully, one day it will be a huge thing,” Grillo said. I have many, many ideas.”