Several times during the 87-year history of the Masters Tournament, the champion has been a native of a country other than the United States. In 2021, that champion happened to be Hideki Matsuyama, a Japanese professional golfer. He is the first-ever Japanese professional golfer to win a men’s major golf championship. The man providing interpretation for Matsuyama during the press conference following his win, is Bob Turner.
Turner is a longtime business associate and friend whom Matsuyama trusts. Their friendship goes back to 2010 when Matsuyama won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which qualified him to play in the Masters.
Many have wondered about the connection between Bob, age 68 in 2021, and Matsuyama, age 29. “‘The first question everyone asks me is, “Where did you learn Japanese?” That leads right into talking about my mission in Japan. … I’m able to tell them my story. It’s been a wonderful experience to have those opportunities.’”
Turner joined the Church in Arcata, California, at the age of 17. He accepted a call to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Japan East Mission. As it is with many missionaries learning a new language, he struggled at the Language Training Mission at the Church College of Hawaii. He admits that he is “still working at it some 40 years later.”
Following his mission, he married his wife, Hiroko, whom he had met while in Japan. He resumed his studies at Humboldt State University in Northern California, but when his wife got homesick, they relocated to Japan and he finished his studies at Waseda University in Tokyo.
Turner had served as a volunteer at the Dunlop International golf tournament in the late 1970s. His skill in and love for golf continued, so he joined the university golf team. “That experience evolved into business connections in the Japanese golf industry, eventually allowing Turner to work with golf legends who were playing in Japan, such as Seve Ballesteros and Latter-day Saints Johnny Miller, Billy Casper and Mike Reid.”
“After graduating from Waseda, Turner took a job recruiting international athletes to compete in golf and tennis tournaments, and marathons, in Japan, and shepherding them when they arrived.”
In 1987, Turner and his family returned to the United States, and he developed a business that assists Japanese golfers competing in the U.S. called Turner Communications International. His son, Allen, who is bilingual, works for TCI assisting Japanese baseball players. His daughter, Mika, is also bilingual. Turner and his wife now live in Utah.
Turner travels with Matsuyama for about 30 weeks each year. He is always nearby to help Matsuyama with English. “As Matsuyama’s longtime manager, he knows his friend well enough to interpret the sentiments behind his Japanese words — and then articulate them for an English-speaking audience. ‘When Hideki’s being interviewed, I try to express not only what he is saying, but what he’s feeling,’ said Turner.”