Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Murukami to play in debut

The 23-year-old Filipino is feeling excited about his prospects in his major debut at Torrey Pines in San Diego but knows fully well of the daunting challenges that he will face in the quest to stand up against the world’s elite.

However, his appearance at the year’s second major will provide him with the added impetus to reach for greater heights in a topsy-turvy career which he nearly gave up the game as a disgruntled amateur some years back.

“I’ve always wanted to see what a major championship is all about,” said Murakami, who earned his US Open berth by topping the sectional qualifying in Japan last month.

“I’m really excited as it’s my first major and I’m determined to enjoy the experience, which means playing in all four rounds. But it’ll be a real challenge as the course is set up tough.

“I’m truly proud to be representing the Philippines and the Asian Tour and I’ll be doing my best.”

Murakami, winner of the Iskandar Johor Open, Malaysia on the Asian Tour last season, has competed at Torrey Pines previously during his amateur days but said the famous course was so much harder now.

“It was short back then but they’ve lengthened it,” he said. “The course is very tight and long now. Although the rough is not high, it’s sticky. If you’re in rough, you can only can chip out.”

His golfing journey has been up and down. Murakami, who is of Japanese-Filipino parentage, became a name to look out for when he won the 1999 Philippine Amateur Championship as a 16-year-old.

He featured in the national amateur team for several years but quit the game abruptly, saying he was disillusioned after being overlooked by officials. During his sabbatical, Murakami caddied for the country’s leading player Frankie Minoza for a full season in Japan in 2003 which he said gave him the appetite for golf again.

“Frankie would often tell me that I could hit the ball as good, if not better than the guys on Tour and that I should be playing competitively again. I enjoyed the experience of caddying for him as I found out why he's the best Filipino golfer.

“The way he plays, the way he thinks, his attitude on the golf course, everything was spot on. He influenced me to start playing golf again and he's my mentor,” said Murakami.

The first Filipino since Felix Casas in 2002 to qualify for the US Open, Murakami is hoping to make an impression at Torrey Pines.

“When I was an amateur, I never thought that I would play in a major. It was only after I turned professional that I set it upon myself that I wanted to play in a major at least once in my lifetime,” said Murakami.

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