The recent earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan struck a particularly poignant chord with the nation of Morocco and in particular the people of Agadir, a town that suffered more than 15,000 casualties in a devastating earthquake in 1960.
The Trophée Hassan II has brought the courageous spirit of the Japanese people to Agadir with professionals Tetsuji Hiratsuka and Azuma Yano being joined in the tournament field at the Golf de l’Ocean and the Golf du Palais Royal by teen amateur sensation Mazamischi Ito.
Despite the recent tragedies in their homeland, those three golfers – along with a healthy Japanese Media contingent – have made the trip to Morocco where they were officially welcomed to the country by delegates from the Trophée Hassan II Organising Committee and The European Tour.
Commenting on the devastation that Japan is currently suffering, Mustapha Zine, Vice President of the Trophée Hassan II Organising Committee, said: “We feel the pain of the Japanese people, having suffered a similar fate in Agadir in 1960.
“Our people here still feel the effects of the devastation and we stand together with the people of Japan at this difficult time and we truly admire the way in which Japan is responding to this disaster.
“There are a lot of similarities between the Moroccan and Japanese people with shared family values and principals – there is a lot in common between our people.”
Scott Kelly, Group Marketing Director of The European Tour, said: “On behalf of Thomas Bjӧrn, the Chairman of The European Tour Players’ Committee, and all of the players and officials of The European Tour, we welcome our Japanese friends to the Trophée Hassan II and share our greatest compassion with you and the Japanese people in such a difficult time.
“We know it was not easy for the Japanese players to come here and we salute their courage in honouring their commitment to play in the Trophée Hassan II.
“The world of golf is responding to the amazing recovery efforts and resilience of the Japanese people and further plans of support will be made between The European Tour and the Federation of PGA Tour’s during the Masters Tournament at Augusta National next week.”
While the world of golf will undoubtedly respond in a positive manner when the federations get together at season’s first Major, there have been many exceptional individual gestures of goodwill towards Japan from the golfing community.
The most notable gesture has come from Japan’s Number One player, Ryo Ishikawa, who has pledged to donate all of his prize money from this season to the disaster relief funds now established in his homeland.
Ishikawa hopes to raise more than €1.5 million this season. He said: "I feel thrilled. My goal is 200 million yen [€1.5 million]. I have enough money to spend for my golf. I still have savings. I believe this is the most positive way for me to spend money."
Earnings from all Ishikawa's events - on the Japan Golf Tour, on the PGA circuit and in the year's Major Championships - will be included in his donation. He will also add 100,000 yen (£750) for every birdie he makes. Last year the teenager earned almost £1.2m in prize money - on the way making 341 birdies in total, which if repeated would add up to another £255,000 in contributions.
Ishikawa is one of Japan's most popular and famous sportsmen, having burst onto the scene after winning his first professional event as a 15-year-old amateur. He has nine Japanese Tour titles to his name and is currently Ranked 45th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
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