Ryo Ishikawa’s talent in golf made people take notice after he won his first Japan Golf Tour at 15 and the money title when he was 17 years old but people have discovered his good heart when he donated all of his tournament earnings this year to help the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last month.
“I don’t view this as pressure to perform, but it will instead be extra motivation for me,” Ishikawa said Friday in an email to The Associated Press. “I always believe in myself, but because I am playing for the people of Japan, I feel like I will be playing with a greater purpose this year.”
The 19-year old Ishikawa last year made it to the Top 3 of Japan’s money list with more than $1.82 million. He also has nine Japan Golf Tour wins.
For every birdie he gets, Ishikawa has pledged to give $1,200 to the victims. Considering his 341 birdies at last year’s Japanese Tour this would amount to more than $400,000.
Golf has always been one of the charity-driven sports but even his colleagues’ attention has been caught by Ishikawa’s generosity.
“It’s the most unbelievable gesture ever, isn’t it?” Geoff Ogilvy said Friday. “I saw it fly past last night on Twitter and I thought, ‘Ah, that’s nice.’ About five minutes later I said, ‘Hang on a minute. All his prize money?’ Which is ridiculous for anybody, but for someone who’s 19 to have that level of thought for others … it’s amazing.”
Ishikawa was at Doral’s Cadillac Championship when news of the earthquake and tsunami surfaced. The destruction in his country has affected his game as he finished the first round with a 65 but struggled for the rest of the week.
Ishikawa, who comes from Saitama which is around 300 miles from the area hardest hit by the tsunami, said his money has been spent to make his life easier.
“I feel fortunate to be in a position to afford such things, but I know that my success is a result of the support of so many people,” he said in the email. “While golf is my profession, and I want to have a long and successful career, there are things that are more important. And the people of Japan are dealing with life and death issues as a result of the earthquake and tsunami.
“I feel it is my turn to give back in whatever way I can to support the people who have been so supportive of me.”