Ryo Ishikawa is donating all of his 2011 earnings to...

Ryo Ishikawa is donating all of his 2011 earnings to earthquake/tsunami relief in his homeland of Japan. (Apr. 4, 2011) Credit: Getty Images


It is too bad that so many good deeds have been wallpapered into the bland cliche, "Give something back." Any time an athlete gets the urge to be charitable, he or she uses that phrase, which has lost all its zing. So here's to Ryo Ishikawa, the teenage golf sensation from Japan who is taking the concept to another level (to use another cliche).

Ishikawa is not only giving something back, he is giving everything back.

He is donating every penny he earns this year to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in his homeland. Ishikawa is determined to raise funds, and spirits.

"I hope that this will contribute to those people so that they will be encouraged," he said at a news conference after a practice round for the Masters, "and they can walk again in their life."

If this Masters is like all the others, even casual golf fans will find reasons to root for someone by Sunday. Many people will hope Tiger Woods finds the magic again. Sentimentalists will pull for Phil Mickelson to gain another green jacket. Some folks will root for someone different, just for the heck of it.

Here is a vote for Ishikawa. If he wins, at the very least, we will know the $1 million-plus first prize will do some good.

Not that it's likely. The 19- year-old has not been the prodigy in the United States that he has been at home, having once shot 58 in the final round to win on the Japan Tour. "Someday I would like to show the American people how well I can play," he said Monday through an interpreter.

Ishikawa lately has shown the people in Japan how well he can think, and feel. He was in Florida, at a PGA Tour stop, when the quake hit. Consider this: A 19-year-old, on the other side of the world, seeing the devastation on TV and being unable to reach his family. "That made me feel a little bit nervous," he said.

His family members were fine, it turned out, and are with him at the Masters this week. But the tragedy was all around him, on the Internet, in his mind, all day and all night.

"People are lining up for food and water, [standing] for three or four hours, just to make it a neat line," he said. "At this point, I am very proud to be Japanese, especially looking at those people who are dealing with this hard situation in the most calm way."

It was time for a bold statement from the young man who has been called by the Japanese media "Bashful Prince" -- a kid who won a pro tournament at 15 and whose popularity at home has been compared to that of the pre-scandal Woods.

"This is my fourth year as a professional golfer and I was supported by many sponsors. They provided everything I needed to play golf," he said. "Now it is my turn to support those people who are in need and I believe that is my responsibility."

For all the avarice associated with the sport, golf does have big credentials when it comes to giving. Pro tournaments raise millions every week for good causes. LPGA golfer I.K. Kim donated her winner's check to charity when she won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational last year. The entire LPGA field donated all prize money in a recent tournament.

Ishikawa took that tradition and raised it. A cynic would call it a publicity stunt. But even if it were, this peanut stands says so what? If there were more publicity stunts like this, there would be a lot more goodwill in the world. Here's to the golfer who is giving his all.