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Valentine gift comes with first pay check for Ishikawa

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese teen sensation Ryo Ishikawa was splashed across the back pages again on Tuesday after winning his first pay check at the weekend.

Japan's Ryo Ishikawa drives the ball during of The Open Championship at the Lakes Golf Course in Sydney February 5, 2008. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

The 16-year-old’s 10th place at the Pearl Open in Hawaii earned him $2,420 -- a mere drop in the ocean compared to the $10 million it is estimated he will earn in the next few years alone.

Ishikawa, whose pearly white grin has made him one of the most photographed celebrities in Japan, also received an early Valentine’s Day gift from local golfer Kelcie Kawano.

“I don’t know how I’m going to spend my prize money,” Ishikawa told reporters after a final-round 71 left him at six-under par in only his second professional start.

“I’m very happy with my position on the leaderboard. I learned a lot. I aim for an average of four birdies a day and I had 14 (overall) here so that was nice.”

Ishikawa’s countryman Azuma Yano won the tournament on 12-under par but photographers and reporters were tripping over themselves to follow the youngster’s progress.

Ishikawa had arrived in Hawaii from playing a British Open qualifying event in Sydney, where a late collapse ruined any hope of appearing at Royal Birkdale in July.

But he experienced a quick change in fortunes in Hawaii and was presented with a heart-shaped balloon by Kawano after holing out on Sunday.

“I thought that he was just good-looking,” giggled the 17-year-old Kawano, blushing after receiving a hug from Ishikawa. “But I was really surprised to see what a great player he is.”

Ishikawa shot to fame in May last year when he become the youngest winner on the Japanese tour at 15 years and eight months at the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup in an astonishing debut.

His decision to turn professional last month is predicted to net him close to $10 million in the next five years, a figure set to treble at least as endorsements flood in.

Editing by John O’Brien