The CCCJ’s Golf Committee puts on fast-paced, fun and friendly tournaments featuring a vast array of prizes and on- and off-course perks. Chair Warren Arbuckle describes all the action, the wide-ranging logistics that make these events possible, and why the committee’s activities have proven to be COVID-proof.
The spectre of a certain virus has ruined plenty of social interactions around the planet for a few years now, and the pent-up urge to get out and hang out with friends is powerful. According to Golf Committee Chair Warren Arbuckle, though, the pandemic has not knocked their events out of bounds.
“We’ve actually done five tournaments during the pandemic,” he notes. “It’s been one of the few things that you could safely go do. The roads were clear, we avoided using buses, with most people commuting by car. You check in, pay your money, and you’re ready to go. You’ve got your own little pod of folks and you’re outside the whole time. It is a bit weird, though, since you’re with this big group of people but not really socializing with them.”
The freedom, the great outdoors and the fun factor have made playing with the CCCJ a huge draw. “We’re usually sold out within a month to six weeks of advertising an event, and we turn away people every time,” Arbuckle says.
The Golf Committee has been around for about twenty-two years, according to Arbuckle, although he admits the exact date is “lost in antiquity.” On the committee for seven years, he’s been running the show for around the last three. He has eight other committee members to support him but would welcome more. He also has some well-considered plans for what comes next.
In Scramble Mode
Outside of events like the Ryder Cup and pro-am tournaments, golf is a lone wolf sport pitting you against all comers. The events the Golf Committee puts on, however, are companionable, enjoyable, low-pressure matches with plenty of camaraderie and good times.
“Our regular tournament is called the CCCJ Scramble,” Arbuckle explains. “You have four people playing together, so you’re a team rather than four individuals. You hit your tee shot, I hit mine, and so do the other two. Then we pick the best shot. That player hits, and then we all hit from that spot.”
That means the team gets four shots every time, even putting. “Because you’ve got that team atmosphere, it’s really fun,” he notes. “Maybe you hit a bad shot, but it doesn’t matter because someone else hit a better one. Teams get pars, they get birdies, they really score well.
“Even if you’ve never played golf before, you can slot into your team and everybody has a good time,” he adds. “I’ve heard many people say the Scramble is the most fun tournament in Tokyo.”
The regular course for the Scramble is Tsutsujigaoka Country Club in Tochigi Prefecture. Arbuckle says the club and friend of the Chamber Kieron Cashell—whose wife’s family owns Tsutsujigaoka—are awesome. “They are very generous to the CCCJ. They even chill our beer and and load it onto the carts for us,” he says. “They also put on a great spread of food and all you can drink on their outdoor terrace.”
The last tournament the committee staged in May was a major undertaking in all senses. The Scramble maxes out at 72 players—this one had 105. Called the CPTPP Cup, it’s named for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). “We did it at the Taiheiyo Club Narita. Taiheiyo is a premier members club with 18 golf courses that also holds pro tournaments,” Arbuckle explains.
The format this time out was a two-person scramble. “We played in pairs and used a shotgun start, with a team starting on every hole at the same time,” Arbuckle explains. “That means that everyone basically finishes about the same time.”
Taiheiyo Club was incredibly supportive. The committee worked with director Jiro Nonaka who helped to quickly smooth out any wrinkles and their international liaison, Joe Gaughwin, an Australian PGA professional. “Joe brought in sponsorship from Titleist, which he represents, and introduced us to a number of other potential sponsors,” Arbuckle says. Jiro, Joe and the entire staff played a huge role in the success of this tournament.
There were twenty main sponsors—including Air Canada, which supplied business-class tickets—as well as the Royal Bank of Canada, SOMA, Robert Walters, Funeral Support Services, DHL, STH, Accor and Canada Beef, with pork from Maple Leaf Foods. “We also had hole sponsors running little kiosks at individual holes offering food, drinks, games and so on to keep things entertaining,” Arbuckle adds.
(Doug, can you fit in somewhere that Canadian Ambassador was there and kicked off the Award Ceremonies? Maybe with or above the previous paragraph?)
Looking for more support, the committee invited the ANZ Chamber first, and then the BCCJ joined because in March the UK joined the (CP)TPP. “They brought a lot of players and gave us a lot of help on the day,” Arbuckle notes, “including videos and interviews. The ANZ Chamber brought a lot of sponsors. Penfolds gave us ninety-six bottles of wine, for example, and Four’n Twenty from Australia supplied meat pies. Everyone, with the Aussies and Kiwis in particular, loved it.
Even better, the weather was warm, cloudy, and with a bit of a breeze. “No matter how much you prepare, you really are at the mercy of the weather,” Arbuckle says. “That Friday was perfect. We got great reviews, and everybody’s asking us when we’re doing the next one.”
Arbuckle’s company Focus Cubed Inc. does change management and corporate training, with a strong focus on multi-cultural team communication, so it’s natural for him to organize events. The last tournament took a lot of upfront work, he reports, but documents, tools and committee and staff stalwarts made the difference.
“Seiji Omote, for instance, put a huge amount of time into liaising with the golf course and more,” Arbuckle notes. “Jared Freesen, on sponsors, and CCCJ Executive Director, Noriko Ishida were also keys. Other people were bringing in sponsors and finding players and organizing the teams.”
The golf committee’s next big task? “Coming up with a solid media plan, to promote international business relations and bring even more value to sponsors” Arbuckle answers. “It’s not hard to get the players, Tokyo is big on golf, but getting strong media coverage such as the newspapers, magazines, TV, social media and so on is our next goal.
“And for the sponsors,” he continues, “if everybody has a good time and see their brands, we’ve done our job right, and all the little hiccups that come along the way, well, that’s just par for the course, right?”
The Canadian ambassador eloquently opened the CPTPP awards ceremony, creating a warm, inclusive atmosphere for all, he notes. Next year the committee is looking to have more embassies participating to further promote the CPTPP spirit. The next Scramble is probably going to be in spring 2024, he adds, and the second TPP event is likely to be next fall.
In the meantime, the committee is always on the lookout for new members “because it’s not just bodies, it’s also what people can bring with them, like their networks,” Arbuckle explains. “There’s probably a number of people you know that work for companies that may be interested in sponsoring. Of the seventy-odd people that come into the Scramble, for example, 85 percent of them are from quite large companies. They’re CEOs, lawyers, engineers, and marketing people and so on.”
Considering the quality of the people and the events, recruiting new blood should be a tap-in for this committee.