Kanaya, Nakajima following footsteps of Hideki Matsuyama

HONOLULU: The Monday morning (Tuesday in Manila) of the first Japan Golf Tour event of the year was no time to be anywhere except in front of a television.

That’s where Takumi Kanaya and Keita Nakajima could be found in Nagoya last April, each captivated by images of Hideki Matsuyama winning the Masters to become the first Japanese player in a green jacket.

“I was simply watching the telecast and cheering him on in the hotel prior to the tournament that I was playing in, and I was very inspired by his win,” Kanaya said through an interpreter at the Sony Open.

“No sleep,” Nakajima added in English with a smile. “Very excited.”

That week after Matsuyama became a Masters champion, Kanaya certainly played inspired golf. He won the Token Homemate Cup for his second title as a pro in just his sixth start on the Japan Golf Tour. Nakajima finished one shot behind.

Kanaya previously won in Japan when he was the No. 1 amateur in the world.

Nakajima was a sophomore in college when he finished second to Kanaya, and now he is the No. 1 amateur in the world. Nakajima also won on the Japan tour as an amateur, at the Panasonic Open, before capturing the Asia-Pacific Amateur.

Both are at the Sony Open this week on sponsor exemptions, and both consider Matsuyama a major source of motivation.

“First and foremost, his playing is second-to-none, and not only me but a lot of the Japanese players have been inspired to play well on US soil,” Kanaya said.