PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Part of Ryo Ishikawa wishes he could fly home to Japan to see his family and find ways to help a country devastated by an earthquake and tsunami and now facing concerns over a nuclear meltdown.
The 19-year-old realizes there is little he can do but try to play his best golf.
Ishikawa, the biggest golfing star in Japan with nine victories, is in the middle of a three-tournament stretch at the Transitions Championship and will be in America through the Masters.
He grew up northwest of Tokyo, some 300 miles from the Miyagi prefecture that was hardest hit by the calamity. His family is safe and he speaks to them every day. But his heart is hurting.
“It almost pains me that I am out there and the people of Japan are going through the worst crisis,” Ishikawa said Tuesday. “I never for once felt lucky that I am here, meaning that my heart and soul are with the people of Japan. Even though I am physically here, my mind is there. Thousands are struggling over there as I speak here today.
“I would like to perform at my best with them in my thoughts.”
Ishikawa learned quickly of the destruction last Friday, then finished off his best round on American soil with a 65 at Doral. The rest of the week was a struggle, however, and he closed with a 78 to tie for 42nd.
The teen sensation attributed that more to the Blue Monster at Doral than the distraction of what is happening at home. And he is determined not to let it bother him on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook this week.
“I wish I could go over there and assist with the search-and-rescue teams,” he said. “In reality, even if I were to go back, there is very little that I could actually do. I couldn’t bring them a whole lot of food or go back into the areas that were hit. We’re not allowed in there right now. The only thing I can do is train hard, play hard, play great golf and provide some good news for the people of Japan.”
He will play the Arnold Palmer Invitational next week at Bay Hill, then go to Augusta National to prepare for the Masters, which is to be played April 7-10. Ishikawa said he will go home right after the Masters, and he still plans to play the Japan Golf Tour’s opening tournament that next week.
Ishikawa has not been able to bring his extraordinary success in Japan over to American soil, a priority for him. If there were ever a time for him to break though, he could not think of a better one.
“I would love to win for the people of Japan, but that is a thought I always carry when I play overseas,” he said. “Given this crisis, my motivation is at the highest it has ever been. There is no negative pressure. I just feel very focused and zoned in. And if I could produce such a brilliant result … and if the bright news could be a source of encouragement for the people of Japan, I would be at my happiest.”