• Kyodo News


Masashi “Jumbo” Ozaki, the JGTO Tour leader with 94 career wins, was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Wednesday, and expressed gratitude for having his achievements recognized on an global scale.

“I feel proud of the contribution I have made to Japanese golf but I didn’t have such good results on the international circuit. I feel grateful to be appreciated by people overseas,” said the 63-year-old Ozaki.

“This honor weighs heavy as I’m still an active player, but everyone is pleased for me so I must accept it.”

Ozaki is the fourth Japanese to achieve the feat following Hisako “Chako” Higuchi, Isao Aoki and Ayako Okamoto. An induction ceremony is scheduled for May 2011 in Florida.

“I am the fourth Japanese player so in some ways, I find that hard to accept,” said Ozaki, who has never won on the U.S. PGA Tour. “But playing well overseas is one of the conditions for this honor so that has bitten me.”

A former professional baseball player, Ozaki captured his first career JGTO victory in 1971 and won 12 money titles between 1973 and 1998 while helping increase the popularity of golf in Japan along with Aoki and Tsuneyuki Nakajima.

He has won over ¥26 billion for his career, the most ever in Japan.

“It’s because of Jumbo-san’s might that the Japanese tour has gotten as big as it is and it is thanks to him that I am playing on the tour,” teenage phenom Ryo Ishikawa said. “It’s not just us (young) players; he will be talked about by future generations of golfers.”

Up-and-coming Yuta Ikeda added, “I am pleased that he has got into the Hall of Fame and I think this should have happened earlier.”

Ozaki, who has a lifetime exemption on the JGTO Tour, is scheduled to play at the Canon Open starting Thursday in Yokohama.

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