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Ryo Hisatsune relishing Augusta sights and sounds as Major debut nears The Masters 2024

Regardless of nationality, economic status, or where you currently live in the world today, odds are when classic anthems such as Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Michael Jackson’s We Are the World, or the Beatles’ Hey Jude come on the radio, you’ll naturally stop and hum along with the melody.

For a golfer, every spring another familiar tune will quickly race back into our lives. A gentle and subdued piano and guitar duet that can make the hairs on your neck stand stiff or even bring grown men to tears.

Those feelings are no different for Ryo Hisatsune, the Japanese PGA TOUR rookie who hails from Okayama, Japan.

“Lily!” Ryo calls out to his girlfriend, “Why aren’t we playing the Augusta music?” as he hums to himself the ever-familiar “Da da daa, da da daa”, while team Hisatsune drives down Magnolia Lane for the first time.

They are headed to the sacred grounds of Augusta National Golf Club for the first of two practice rounds, just two short weeks before the start of this year’s Masters Tournament.

“My life right now is not at all what I had imagined it would be,” said the 21-year-old while reflecting back on the past 6 months of his whirlwind golf career and his upcoming Masters debut.

“Over the last six months and really the last year, I feel like my golf game has improved dramatically and that’s really thanks to my time on DP World Tour.”

This past September, the young Japanese star won his maiden DP World Tour title at the Cazoo Open de France where he became the first Japanese winner on Continental Europe in 40 years as a rookie on tour and would go on to make history becoming the first player from Japan to win the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award.

Hisatsune now hopes to follow in fellow countryman and senpai (mentor) Hideki Matsuyama’s footsteps to become the second Japanese to win the hallowed event.

“I feel like my game-making has really improved the most. Every part of your game needs to be at the highest level to stay competitive (on PGA TOUR) so I’ve really tried to utilize the weapons that I have in my own arsenal while continuing to play my own style of golf, which I think has had the biggest impact for me to stay competitive thus far.”

Augusta National will surely challenge all facets of his game as Hisatsune will make his major championship debut after receiving a special exemption from the club earlier this year.

“It’s hard to express in words, but when I think of the Masters, it’s a tournament I remember watching as a kid, picking up the game, and then later deciding to make a career in golf. It has always been the tournament I wanted to play in the most. I remember scenes of Tiger chipping in on 16, Mickelson hitting out of the trees on 13, and of course seeing Mr. Matsuyama win really left an impact on me.”

And when Ryo was finally able to set foot on those sacred grounds, once again he was at a loss for words.

“There’s really no way to describe it. It didn’t even feel like real life. It was like I was in a dream. From driving down Magnolia Lane to getting onto the course it was like I was in a different world. Elation, maybe? I couldn’t hold back my excitement. There really are no words to describe it.”

However, once Hisatsune got settled down and onto the course, reality quickly set back in on what kinds of punches this 18-hole foe would be throwing at him over four grueling rounds of golf during tournament week.

“The course is very tough. Much more narrow than what I had imagined from seeing it on TV. The target lines feel really constricted and I was thinking to myself, how am I even going to be able to break par, but I also left feeling very excited for the challenge.”

“I was also surprised about the up-and-down of the course. I had heard from other players about all the undulations, but they were twice as big as I had ever imagined. Even after just two days of practicing, I was quite tired by the time we left.”

Hisatsune however, after seeking as John and Paul so eloquently put it, ‘a little help from his friends’, in particular, fellow DP World Tour comrade Robert MacIntyre along with a handful of other DP players and his local Augusta caddie from his practice round, was able to glean some invaluable first-hand knowledge on how to manage the course, though he wasn’t about to give away any of those trade secrets.

“Some of the guys that have played there told me there really isn’t anything to compare it to and that you need to get onsite and just experience it for yourself. Robert was also kind enough to offer me a few other tips, but I’m keeping those to myself,” Hisatsune said jokingly.

Since Fuzzy Zoeller’s Masters debut win in 1979, no other player since has won the tournament on their first try and when asked about his thoughts on going into the week seeking a win, Hisatsune who earned his 2024 PGA TOUR card by finishing 17th on the DP World Tour’s final Race to Dubai Rankings, was nothing but positive.

“I’m of course prepping for the tournament with the intention to win. But it’s also my first major so I plan to go there and just play my own golf and enjoy myself. The week will be over in a flash so I just want to go in and enjoy my time there and take in as much as I can.”

And while Ryo has every intention of enjoying the week, even having his father and other friends and family there whom he hasn’t seen since leaving for America in January, it will be all business for team Hisatsune who has traveled across the states the last three months on the PGA TOUR as a trio that includes himself, caddie Taiga Tabuchi and girlfriend Rirua Furukawa.

“We’ll likely spend the week apart from each other,” speaking about his family and friends who will be onsite for the week. “The only times I will see them will probably just be when we naturally run into each other on the course. But my plan for now is to treat this like any other week and prepare as if nothing is different than any other tournament.”

“I’m nervous, but also very excited,” said Hisatsune, “Regardless of the results, I’ll give it my best shot. I don't have anything to fear, but rather, it's up to me to challenge myself, and having made it into this field, I just want to have fun, enjoy the week, and do my best.”

As for us golf fans who will not be teeing it up, but rather have been counting down the days since the last Masters ended nearly a year ago when we turn on our TV sets and hear that simple melody, nearly as sacred as the grounds itself and appropriately titled “Augusta”, will help set the mood for those who celebrate this special time of year, whereas humans and just plain ole’ fans of the game of golf, all tune in together to watch the Masters tournament.

Image: Getty Images

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