Everyone Loves Ryo - ハニカミ王子 - Golf's "It Boy"


The dust has settled on the Presidents Cup and professional golfers have gone off in various directions for a couple of months. Some we'll easily forget about. Others however, we're not quite ready to relinquish. From what I've seen in my on-line golf browsing today Ryo Isikawa is current poster boy for that sentiment.

But the youngster, who over the weekend in San Francisco impressed the best in the game, not to mention golf scribes and bloggers everywhere, is headed back to his native Japan.

And Japan will surely want to keep him in Japan as much as possible and for as long as they can... because basically, they're counting on the kid for the future of golf in their country.

In much the same way it's often said that Tiger Woods carries golf on his shoulders here, In Japan the destiny of the entire sport has been placed precariously on Ryo Ishikawa's rather slender frame.

In the 1990s the Japan Golf Tour was the third richest, after the PGA and European Tours, but in recent years its number of tournaments has been steadily contracting from a peak of 44 in 1990 to only 24 in 2008, and tournament purses have hardly risen at all.

Though the President's Cup would seem to mark Ryo's breakthrough moment in the US, he recently captured his sixth career win on the Japan Tour, and he's at the top of the money list there. In 2007 when he was just 15, Ryo won the Japan Tour's KSB Cup as an amateur, and became the youngest winner of any event on the world's six Major. I first wrote about him then as he arrived in the US for Junior World, at Torrey Pines.

Ryo's mercurial rise in golf has been mirrored by his rise as a Japanese pop-culture icon, so his influence is massive. Anyone in Japan with an interest in reviving men's golf would strongly encourage Ryo to... well, just not to be in too much of hurry to buy a house in Florida or Arizona.

Regarding his future, he himself made it clear that for the time being, he'll be playing in Japan. And some would say, judging from his performance in the majors over the summer, it'll be some time before he's truly ready for the world stage. However, scheduling conflicts are already beginning to emerge. His recent win at The Tokai Classic made him eligible to play at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai on November 5-8... and one of Ishikawa's sponsors, Toyota, is holding domestic event in the same week. Ooops. Word has it the bashful Prince is, "...considering taking part in the HSBC Champions." ~ A prospect that's got to be welcome news for the world's growing base of Ryo watchers.