Fans of the Top 50’s current focus on tour coverage have singled out the contributions of our chief Asian correspondent, Duke Ishikawa. “This Duke guy must be psychic,” gushes a reader from Glendive, Mont. “He singles out a rookie I never heard of, Sang-Moon Bae, and Bae reaches the quarter-finals at the Accenture Match Play. He then focuses his all-knowing gaze on another rookie, John Huh, and Huh wins the Mayakoba Golf Classic. So here’s my question. Is ‘Duke’ his real name?”
Before I answer Glendive’s question, I have to correct him. Duke tipped us off to Bae, but credit for the Huh coverage goes to me and my print-media partner, Sports Illustrated Golf Plus, for which I pounded the Huh beat. And we weren’t psychic. We just couldn’t resist the opportunity to put “HUH?” in a headline.
But getting back to Duke Ishikawa, I was going to query him about his nickname when it struck me that he might demand a million yen for his answer. So I forwarded Glendive’s question to our chief Allegheny correspondent and former Golf Writers Association of America president, Marino Parascenzo, who volunteered an answer in less time than it takes to set a Bear Trap.
“The story of Duke Ishikawa goes back to the 1970s,” Marino replied in one of his elegant e-mails.
Duke was getting to be a pretty regular visitor to U.S. tournaments back then, and one day he was chatting with Joe Concannon of the Boston Globe. (Did you know the late Joe?) Duke told Joe he wished he had an American name because people had so much trouble with his given name, Hiroshi. He said ‘Ishikawa’ was tough enough. An American first name would make things easier.
So Joe asked him, “Well, can you think of an American name you would like?”
And Hiroshi said, “Harold.”
And Joe said, “Hell no. That really sucks.”
Hiroshi couldn’t think of another American name he wanted, so Concannon said, “Okay, who’s your favorite American?”
And Hiroshi said, “John Wayne.”
And Joe said, “Okay, John’s no good. So now you’re ‘Duke.’”
And Duke it was.
Concannon told me the story, and Duke confirmed it. He liked Joe a lot.
“I don’t think either of them considered ‘Joe” for a name,” Marino added in his freely volunteered, no-payment-expected e-mail. “It just doesn’t have the same ring to it as ‘Duke.’”
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but a press release informs us that 45th-ranked Hillcrest Country Club of Kansas City, Mo., a classic Donald Ross design, is being re-branded as The Heartland Golf Club. Operating under new management, the former PGA Tour venue will re-open on March 30 with new membership options. “We’re excited to start the process of re-creating the former Hillcrest site into a multi-purpose facility,” says Heartland general manager Kurt Everett. “Our first step is to get the golf course back into play, and we’re busy now with turf and green improvements and an updated pro shop.”