Quest to learn a language led to a lot more for Ryo Ishikawa's caddie

Howsecond world war studies in Japan led Simon Clark to become caddie for star Ryo Ishikawa

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 January, 2014, 10:08pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 January, 2014, 10:08pm

Simon Clark headed off to Japan to learn the language and enhance his college studies of the second world war. He was excited about making his first visit to Pearl Harbour last week when he was able to take a break from his job as the caddie for Ryo Ishikawa.

It is safe to say that the past two decades turned out differently from what he could have ever imagined.

"I've been very lucky," Clark said.

While he has written a 10,000-word essay on why the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour, the 44-year-old Australian is more famous on the Japan Golf Tour for writing the yardage books for players and caddies the past 20 years.

Look, there's not much I can do with that unless I teach. There's no real career in World War II studies
Simon Clark

He started caddying without any experience and now works for the 22-year-old Ishikawa, who still gets more attention in Japan than any other golfer. And he still has not finished college.

"I still have to do a final review," Clark said. "Look, there's not much I can do with that unless I teach. There's no real career in World War II studies. I tried to join the Air Force but I could never fly jets because I had my knees operated on and they said I couldn't stand the ejections if we had to eject."

Even so, this has been a wild ride. It began when Clark wanted to learn a second language and saw an advertisement in the paper about Japanese country clubs wanting caddies.

"They actually wanted girls, so my wife [Melanie] and I went over," he said. "We worked for six months as house caddies, and I studied Japanese pretty hard. They had this tournament down the road, the Tokai Classic, that Mark O'Meara won. I caddied for a guy named Wayne Smith. And I loved it straight away."

Over the years, he has caddied for Graham Marsh, Brendan Jones, Craig Parry, Peter Senior and Bradley Hughes. Now a member at Victoria Golf Club, he was home in Australia when he agreed to work for an American rookie on the LPGA Tour - Jessica Korda - and she went on to win a play-off in the Women's Australian Open.

Caddying, however, became more work than he imagined.

"I noticed the yardage books were not very good, and I'm pretty good at drawing," Clark said. "I started doing them for Todd Hamilton, and he taught me how to do them with technical drawing. Everyone saw them and wanted me to put them out there. I've been doing it right up until this year. I did them for 20 years. I drew them by hand, and then we got to the technical graphic side of them."

He was in Okinawa at the end of 2012 when Ishikawa's camp asked him to work full-time. Ishikawa, who played in his first Presidents Cup when he was 18, had been using local club caddies and wanted a permanent one. And it helped that this caddie spoke Japanese.

"He's an interesting fellow," said Matthew "Bussy" Tritton, friends with Clark since they were teenagers and now Geoff Ogilvy's caddie. "He was just a student who started off at a golf club. He knew nothing about caddying and then he started making a few books. I was living in Denmark at the time, travelling the world, and he said to come to Japan to help him make the books. And he's a very good writer."

His first love has never left him. That might have been the best part of Ishikawa playing the Sony Open in Hawaii last week, even though he missed the cut: "I can't wait to go to Pearl Harbour," Clark said.

Associated Press