Shy Prince with a Huge Heart
These may be the worst of times for Japan.
They are the best of times for Ryo Ishikawa.
Ishikawa is the 19-year-old golf sensation who has captured the minds and imaginations of his Japanese homeland. He is a big-time newsmaker at a very tender age. At a time when most teenagers are looking for an identity, Ishikawa has already made his way in the world and has done the extraordinary.
His concern for his nation and its people has driven him to make an incredible decision. He is donating all of his golf course earnings this season to the earthquake and tsunami relief efforts that will help his country rebound from these horrible disasters.
Last year he made nearly $2 million. He’s a cinch to do better than that this year. As if that’s not enough, he’s also going to donate $1,200 for each birdie he makes this season. He made 341 last year, so that will be a hefty amount in and of itself.
The obvious question is, how can one so young be so wise, so profound in his caring?
One of the reasons that young Ishikawa is already one of the world’s most accomplished golfers is not only his skill with his clubs, but the measure of his heart. He plays the game with courage, with determination.
His latest effort puts him beyond a role model. He is a shining example for young people everywhere. He’s just one young man but he’s out to prove that he can help make a difference, help put back the pieces of broken dreams and broken lives of a nation that feels enormous pain.
“I am playing for the people of Japan. I feel like I will be playing with a greater purpose this year,” Ishikawa said after making his major decision.
In this day and age, where many young professional athletes are the poster-children for greed and bad behavior, Ishikawa has put himself in a category all his own. He knows what it’s like to be in a virtual media fishbowl. His every move, wherever he goes, is scrutinized by a press corps of 50-60 assorted writers, photographers and television cameramen.
The attention has never phased him. He has been true to his course, and those who follow the game closely feel he will emerge as one of golf’s brightest stars over the next decade.
Men like Ryo Ishikawa are a rare breed. Sports superstars at his age are even rarer; it is a very short list. But to find a 19-year-old with the heart, national pride and genuine caring for his countrymen is a supreme challenge.
What Ryo Ishikawa has done is simple. He has put his mind and his money where his heart says he should.
And that’s a great thing, isn’t it?