Masters champion Matsuyama gets Prime Minister's Award

Hideki Matsuyama, left, hands a gift to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, right, at the prime minister's office in Tokyo. (Masanori Takei/Kyodo News via AP)

TOKYO — Hideki Matsuyama received the Prime Minister's Award in Tokyo on Friday for winning the Masters golf tournament.

He was the first Japanese winner at Augusta National, the famous American club.

Matsuyama won the low amateur title at the 2011 Masters just weeks after the earthquake, tsunami and the meltdown of three nuclear reactors devastated the northeastern Fukushima area of Japan. The catastrophe killed about 18,000 people.

Matsuyama received the award from Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who saluted him for lifting spirits in Japan this time — and 10 years ago.

"You have continued to encourage the affected areas, marking the 10th anniversary of the disaster, and you have great courage,'' Suga said. "While contributing greatly to the progress of sports in Japan, the achievement of communicating the importance of efforts to all the people and giving them dreams and hopes is truly remarkable.''

Matsuyama said he hopes to win the gold medal at this year's Tokyo Olympics.

Matsuyama wore the Masters green jacket at the presentation and gave the prime minister a green cap from the tournament and a pin flag from the club.

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