Japan schoolboy Ishikawa gets million dollar driver

TOKYO Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:34am EST

Asia's Ryo Ishikawa of Japan tees off on the third hole during the second day of foursomes matches against Europe at the Royal Trophy golf tournament in Chonburi province, near Bangkok, January 10, 2009. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

Asia's Ryo Ishikawa of Japan tees off on the third hole during the second day of foursomes matches against Europe at the Royal Trophy golf tournament in Chonburi province, near Bangkok, January 10, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Sukree Sukplang

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese schoolboy sensation Ryo Ishikawa will be aided in his bid to break through on the world stage by a new million-dollar driver.

The 17-year-old will test the club, which cost Japanese sports maker Yonex 100 million yen to develop and could boost his distance off the tee to 350 yards, during the 2009 season.

"The ball feels lighter somehow," Ishikawa told local media Tuesday. "It's a strange feeling. I've never hit it so far. I can have a real go at driving 350 yards now."

Ishikawa, who helped Asia beat Europe to claim the Royal Trophy earlier this month, became the youngest player to win 100 million yen in a season on the Japanese men's tour in 2008.

Last year he averaged just over 290 yards off the tea -- seventh on the Japanese circuit.

Widely regarded as the savior of the flagging JGTO Tour, Ishikawa shot to fame in May last year as he became the youngest winner on the Japanese tour at just 15 years and eight months.

He won his first tournament as a professional golfer last November at the ABC Championship after turning professional at the start of 2008.

His pearly white grin has already made him one of the most photographed celebrities in Japan and he is projected to earn at least $10 million in the next few years alone.

That figure is likely to soar after he leaves school and devotes more time to the endorsements which have flooded in since last year.

(Reporting by Alastair Himmer; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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