Japan contingent plays on after tragedy

dshirley@macon.comApril 6, 2011 

AUGUSTA -- Four Japanese players are in the field this week at Augusta National Golf Club, but all four likely have their home country on their minds with every shot.

Japan was hit by catastrophic earthquake in the middle of March and remains in the news as it tries to recover. It is with that in the background that Hiroyuki Fujita, Yuta Ikeda, Ryo Ishikawa and Hideki Matsuyama are competing in this week’s Masters.

“I have decided to play because so many people have pushed me, the people at my university who have suffered and my teammates and parents, who made me start to play the sport of golf,” Matsuyama said. “Everyone has been supportive. I have decided to play at the Masters, not only for myself but for the people who have me who I am.

“The Masters, which has been my dream, is their dream, as well. Doing my best here is my obligation for them.”

Matsuyama is making his Masters debut, along with Fujita. Ikeda is playing in the tournament for the second time after finishing 29th in 2010.

Ishikawa, who is just 19, is playing for the third time and has missed the cut in his first two appearances.

“I understand that many sports events in Japan are postponed or cancelled because of the quake, but at the same time I would like to emphasize the power and energy that sports can create for those people to encourage them,” Ishikawa said. “Also, it’s my intention to play really well. That will be the best way to encourage people in Japan.”

But Ishikawa is planning to do much more than that. He has pledged to donate all of his earnings this year to the relief efforts in his home country.

“I consulted with my family, as well as my team,” Ishikawa said. “But eventually I decided that I would like to do it, and by doing so, I would really like to encourage those people, especially those who are going through the hardship in Japan, and hope that this will contribute to those people so that they will be encouraged, and they can walk again in their life.”

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