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Rediff.com  » Sports » Ishikawa to make US Masters debut

Ishikawa to make US Masters debut

January 23, 2009 11:48 IST

Japanese schoolboy sensation Ryo Ishikawa will become the second youngest player to compete at the US Masters after receiving a special invitation on Thursday.

The 17-year-old professional, already a household name in his homeland, will make his major debut on April 9.

"At a young age Mr Ishikawa has shown the skill and competitiveness to make him a deserving recipient of this invitation," Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said in a statement.

"We see this as an opportunity to expose an emerging talent on a world stage and fulfil our objective to grow the game.

"I am optimistic his participation in the Masters will inspire younger players and increase interest in golf in Asia and beyond."

Ishikawa, who helped Asia beat Europe to claim the Royal Trophy earlier this month, will be 17 years six months and 23 days when the opening major of the season starts.

American Tommy Jacobs, who played in his first Masters as an amateur in 1952, was 17 years one month and 21 days.

Ishikawa, widely seen as the potential saviour of the flagging JGTO men's tour, is set to make his US PGA Tour debut in next month's Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.

'BASHFUL PRINCE'

Nicknamed the 'Bashful Prince' because of his unassuming demeanour, he shot to fame in May 2007 when he became the youngest winner on the Japanese tour at 15 years eight months.

His victory at the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup in a remarkable debut shattered the previous record held by Spain's Seve Ballesteros, who won the 1977 Japan Open aged 20 years seven months.

The local media were quick to label Ishikawa the 'Japanese Tiger' and his marketability gave the tour a timely boost at a time when sponsorship and interest were on the wane.

He won his first tournament as a professional in November at the ABC Championship after joining the paid ranks at the start of 2008.

Last year he became the youngest player to win 100 million yen ($1.11 million) in a single season on the Japanese tour.

Ishikawa's pearly white grin has already made him one of the most photographed celebrities in his homeland and he is projected to earn several million dollars in the next few years.

Born in Saitama north of Tokyo, Ishikawa has swiftly risen to 60th in the world rankings, making him the second highest Japanese player after Shingo Katayama (34th).

Source:
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