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A quest to learn a language leads to Sony Open for caddy

    Ryo Ishikawa, left, of Japan, and his caddie, Simon Clark, stand seen on the fifth tee during the second round of the Sony Open golf tournament, Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Simon Clark headed off to Japan to learn the language and enhance his college studies of World War II. He was excited about making his first visit to Pearl Harbor this week when he was able to take a break from his job as the caddie for Ryo Ishikawa.

It’s safe to say the last two decades turned out differently from he could have imagined.

“I’ve been very lucky,” Clark said.

The 44-year-old Australian is proficient as an author, just not what you might think. While he has written a 10,000-word essay on why the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Clark is more famous on the Japan Golf Tour for making the yardage books for players and caddies the last 20 years.

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 hasn’t 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 ad 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 straightaway.”

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 playoff 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 went with a permanent one. And it helped that this caddie spoke Japanese.

That’s the odd part of this tale. Clark studied Japanese to help with his studies of World War II, not to work for a Japanese golfer.

“He’s an interesting fellow,” said Matthew “Bussy” Tritton, best friends with Clark since they were teenagers and now the caddie for Geoff Ogilvy. “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 at Denmark at the time, traveling the world, and he told he to come to Japan to help him make the books. And he’s a very good writer.”

His first love never left him. That might have been the best part of Ishikawa playing the Sony Open, even though he missed the cut.

“I can’t wait to go to Pearl Harbor,” Clark said.

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