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Masters invitation excites Ishikawa

by Jim Armstrong

The Associated Press

When he turned professional just over a year ago, Ryo Ishikawa listed winning the U.S. Masters as one of his goals in life. Now the 17-year-old high school student will get his first chance.

Ishikawa received a special invitation from Augusta National on Thursday, putting the teenager in line to become the second-youngest player to compete in the Masters, which will be held April 9-12.

“I got the call last night,” Ishikawa told a news conference Friday. “Of course everything was in English and I couldn’t understand it well. But I could understand ‘Masters’ and ‘invitation’ and that’s when I knew what was happening.”

He will be the youngest player at the Masters since Tommy Jacobs competed as an amateur in 1952 at 17 years, 1 month and 21 days. Ishikawa, who already has won twice on the Japan tour, turned 17 four months ago.

The invitation to compete on one of golf’s biggest stages came a day after he received exemptions from three U.S. PGA Tour events.

No Japanese golfer has ever won the Masters. Toshimitsu Izawa finished tied for fourth in 2001.

“It’s always been my dream to play in the Masters, It’s like a fantasy for me,” Ishikawa said. “I’ve seen the Masters only on TV. And now I’m so excited that I’m actually going there. . .”

Augusta National awarded Ishikawa the invitation it sets aside for international players. It has gone to Asian-born players every year since 2003, when no such exemption was offered.

“At a young age, Mr. Ishikawa has shown the skill and competitiveness to make him a deserving recipient of this invitation,” club chairman Billy Payne said. “We see this as an opportunity to expose an emerging talent on a world stage and fulfill our objective to grow the game. I am optimistic that his participation in the Masters will inspire younger players and increase interest in golf in Asia and beyond.”