Marion and I have been members of the Nikkei Club for the past six or seven years. It is made up of golf couples over 60 years of age. The club has tournaments scheduled about once a month, and we play at a variety of courses throughout Southern Cal. On occasion, an outing is planned out of the area.
A couple of months ago, a trip was made to Whistler, Canada, and in October some members will be traveling to Half Moon Bay in Northern California. Our president is Karl Nagata. He and his wife, Lorna, are both retired elementary school principals, and live in Monterey Park. (Her email address starts out “lngolfmom.”)
Frank Fukuhara, and his wife, Ihoko, live in Malibu. Frank is one of the early members. He joined the club in 1974, two years after the club was formed by six couples who were members of the Southern California Nisei Golf Association. Ike Ikenaka, who now lives at Nikkei Senior Garden in Arleta, was one of the founders. He, Frank, and Aki Mori, wife of Larry Mori, who passed away at 93 early this year, are all who remain from the original group of members.
During WWII Larry was with the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, which was attached to the 442nd. The 522nd was the unit that first reached the Dachau concentration camp to liberate the Jews who were held prisoners there. Meanwhile, back in the states, Larry’s family, and Aki as well, languished in Poston. Of special interest: Aki tells me one of her high school classmates was Wimpy Hiroto, long-time Rafu Shimpo columnist.
But, back to Dachau. Larry tried to tell the inmates they were free to leave the camp, but they didn’t understand English. Larry finally found one man who he was able to communicate with and was able to give the inmates the good news. This man, whose name was Morris, remembered Larry’s name and several years ago after a long search he appeared on the doorstep of Larry and Aki’s home in La Palma. He told them he was determined to reconnect with this man who had freed him and his people those many years before.
For those who may not be acquainted with how the scoring is handled: Each golfer has a handicap that varies according how his/her score compares to par, which is the number of strokes a better-than-average player would score. Because of this handicap, those playing within a wide range of abilities are able to compete with one another, and this allows the men and women to play on more or less equal terms. What I like about the club is it puts people together to play the game and get to know one another in the process.
On Aug. 8, our tournament was held at the Recreation Park Course in Long Beach. In my foursome was Miki Aoki. Miki, it turns out, is two weeks younger than I. He is Kibei; that is someone who was U.S.-born but was educated in Japan. He spent the war years in Japan, and although times were very hard, he values the friends he made there, and did not show any regret at being in Japan at that time. Miki’s wife, Yoshiko, happens to be distantly related to me. She runs a travel agency in Little Tokyo.
Filling out our foursome was Frank Fukuhara and Ihoko. Frank, who was a widower at the time, says the two of them met 33 years ago when they went separately to play one day at Rancho Park Course in L.A. and were put on together. The rest is history — a golf love story. Frank says it has been the best 33 years of his life.
When we first joined the club, I was put on with Frank, and I remember thinking how well he played at his age. Frank is now 96, and plays golf three times a week. He told me how much he enjoys it and how thankful he is to be still in good health and able to play. He didn’t drive the ball too far, but he was always straight off the tee and his chipping and putting were incredible! I managed to beat him by two strokes, not counting any handicap. And he is 19 years my senior!
With Frank and Ihoko as our models, Marion and I look forward to many more years of playing golf together. Our club’s website address: www.NikkeiSeniorsGolf.com. Check us out!
Phil Shigekuni can be reached by email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.