Japan golf legend Sugihara dies from cancer

28 Dec 2011 12:16

Japanese golf legend Teruo Sugihara died Wednesday after a long battle with prostate cancer in a career that spanned more than a half century and earned him the nickname "Don" of Japan's pro tour.

Sugihara, who was 74, was also known as the "Viper" for his tenacity despite standing at just 160 centimetres (5.2 feet). He won 63 tournaments including the 1969 Hong Kong Open, his only overseas victory.

Sugihara, a former Osaka caddie who turned pro in 1957 and captured his first career title in 1962 at the Japan Open, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and made his ailment public the next year.

He continued to play professionally for over a dozen after his diagnosis

In 2006, at the age of 68 years and 10 months, the veteran became the oldest player ever to make the cut at a competition in the top-tier Japanese tour.

That bested a US PGA record of 67 years and two months set by Sam Snead who died in 2002 at the age of 89.

Sugihara set another record by playing the Chunichi Crowns tournament for 51 years in a row, eclipsing Arnold Palmer's feat of 50 consecutive Masters outings.

He made his final tour appearance at the Mizuno Open last year.

"Mr. Sugihara taught me the rigours of golf since I was young," said Isao Aoki, 69, one of Japan's most successful golfers, who was inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004.

"It is really regretful that we have lost Mr. Sugihara, the most senior active player in golf."

Masashi "Jumbo" Ozaki, 64, another Japanese golf star, said: "I can only guess that he fought a tough battle with the disease. May he rest in peace."

In the last installment of a regular newspaper column, Sugihara wrote: "It's too much to bear it and my condition forces me to say, 'I'd rather be dead.'"

He ended the November 9 editorial with the word "sayonara."