When senior Akira Isayama first saw his father practicing golf in the backyard, he was intrigued by the art of swinging the golf club, and that, he said, was the beginning of his career as a golf player.
“I have been playing golf since I was 6 years old,” Isayama said. “My father and I would frequently watch (the) Golf Channel on television, and I admired my favorite player, Tiger Woods.”
Isayama said though he started playing golf early, his official golf experience started much later.
“My golfing competition started when I was around 8 years old,” Isayama said. “I participated in a few tournaments, but I only played for entertainment and fun. I started playing competitive golf when I entered high school.”
After entering high school and joining the golf team at Paly, Isayama said he competed even more, and this effort led him to be recruited by the University of California San Diego, a Division I school, for golf.
“During my first three years of high school, I participated in more than 20 tournaments each year,” Isayama said. “Through competing in many tournaments, I was able to be recruited by college coaches.”
Throughout his career, Isayama said what he enjoyed the most about golf was the exposure to more brilliant athletes.
“What I really like most about the sport is meeting new people from around the world and competing with them,” Isayama said.
Despite his passion for golf, Isayama said he has encountered many difficulties while progressing in his athletic career.
“The most difficult challenge was to dedicate myself to practice many hours at the range and the course,” Isayama said. “Another challenge was managing my schedule. Since golf requires many hours outdoors, it was difficult to balance school work and golf.”
In addition to personal discipline and dedication, Isayama also said he acknowledges the contribution of others — in particular, his father and private swing coach.
“My swing coach and my father have been contributing throughout my golfing career,” Isayama said. “Whenever I had a problem with my swing, they would always point out the mistake that I can’t find in my swing alone.”
As a golf athlete, Isayama has qualified for the Central Coast Section for three years. Isayama also played at the 2018 Junior World Qualifier in Sacramento, which he said was the moment he was most proud of.
“The top two from the qualifier were given exemption spots to play at Torrey Pines South Course,” Isayama said. “The golf course is famous for the 2008 US Open and the Farmers Insurance Open. I was able to clinch one of the spots and play there.”
In addition to helping him develop physical strength, Isayama said golf has taught him a lot about life in general, which made him a stronger person overall.
“Golf has taught me lots of essential lessons and skills,” Isayama said. “It improved my communication skills, time management and commitment.”
Senior and Paly varsity golf captain Bob Zhu, has known Isayama for five years, and said Isayama is a strong athlete not only in terms of skills, but also in terms of the ability to fight pressure.
“The best way to describe him on the course is focused,” Zhu said. “When he’s in a tournament, he can concentrate on the situation at hand and block out all other distractions. This is beneficial for him as people with this ability are able to perform under high pressure.”
Zhu recalled a time when he attended a sports event with Isayama, and said he was impressed by Isayama’s capability as an athlete.
“There was a golf camp with most of the Ivy college coaches and some D1 coaches around the area in Southern California in November, Akira and I both attended the camp,” Zhu said. “The pressure to play well was high as college coaches watched and walked with the players. I cannot perform in these high pressure conditions, but Akira can block out all others and focus only on his game. Being able to concentrate, he won the event.”
Moreover, Zhu said Isayama is consistent in both his games and his standards for himself, which contributes to his success as a player.
“Akira is also consistent,” Zhu said. “He practices golf 20 hours a week without taking breaks, even after he has committed to UCSD. If one wants to find Akira, just go to the driving range after school. There’s a good chance that he will be there practicing. His consistency also shows on the course where he is able to perform when asked. This is what makes him one of the best players in the league and a great addition to UC San Diego’s team.”