Ryo Ishikawa: Japan’s number one golfer and maybe soon the top golfer in the world? If you haven’t yet heard of him, that might seem like a bold suggestion, especially for a 19-year-old player from Japan, but he has already achieved greatness at home, so much so that he’s got an entry in the Guinness Book of Records and every week, hundreds of people flock to see the trophies in his museum.
”I don’t think I’ll see anyone else like this while I’m still alive,” says Takehiro Hayashi, the executive director of Japan’s Junior Golf Development Association, “a player as talented as this only comes along once every hundred years.”
Ishikawa is the youngest ever winner of a major tour event. He did it when he was just 15 years and eight months. He’s also the only man to shoot 58 in a professional tournament, “It was like being in a dream,” he says, “it was as if the ball and the cup had magnetic powers or it was as if I was controlling the ball by remote control.”
He’s frighteningly talented, and ferociously dedicated, spending up to three hours in the gym every day and five more on the range. Ishikawa is a multi-millionaire from both golf and business endorsements; he’s fashionable, handsome and polite – a marketing man’s dream. His motto is ‘World, Here I come’, and it surely won’t be long before the world knows his name.
Dotted throughout his private practice range in rural Saitama are several dense clumps of Kentucky blue grass, a category not commonly found in Japan, and certainly not long enough to lose your ball. It’s from here that Ishikawa practices the shots he’ll need to succeed on the PGA Tour.
”I don’t feel that I need to move to America at the moment, I can still learn a lot more in Japan,” Ishikawa reflects, “I may change my mind in the future and if so then I’d like to move without delay.” ‘No rush’ is the assessment from Ryo’s father Katsumi, but a move is surely one day inevitable.
The walls of his gym are decorated with glossy pictures of Masters champions – his aim is to become one himself – and a giant map of the US is also prominent; destinations like Los Angeles, Phoenix, Orlando and – of course – Augusta, have been highlighted. The map is statement of ambition, but it also reveals a personal conflict. Pinned in the top corner is a family snapshot of Ryo with his younger brother and sister. They are a close-knit family and his schedule is forcing them apart.
“If I decide to go to America, I don’t know what my parents would say. I have to ask their opinion first, I can’t imagine how they would react,” he says. Ishikawa has made great strides already but the next step will surely be the hardest. To be the best in the world, you have to regularly play the best and learn how to beat them. A move, if and when it comes, will be a cultural and emotional wrench. But one suspects he’ll have the will power to see it through, Ishikawa credits much of his success to his patience and his mental strength. On display at his museum in the ski-town of Yuzawa is a dazzling array of trophies, scorecards, souvenirs and clothing. The museum was created when he was just 17. The story of Ryo Ishikawa is already being told and the artefacts already being preserved for posterity. That in itself is incredible, and it’s an indication of just how big the story could one day be.
For more of Don Riddell’s interview with Ishikawa tune in to Living Golf on CNN: Thursday 4th November at 1130 and 1630 GMT; Saturday 6th November at 0630 and 2000 GMT; Sunday 7th November at 0330, 0830 and 1600 GMT; Monday 8th November
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