Teen ‘switch - Golfer’ Takes Aim At Professional Game

Teen ‘switch-golfer’ takes aim at professional gameA true rarity has recently emerged in the Japan men’s golf world — an ambidextrous player.
Kei Takahashi, a third-year student at Kaishi Gakuen High School in Niigata, made his debut on the Japan pro tour at the Dunlop Srixon Fukushima Open in July via an amateur qualifying tournament.

Born in Tochigi Prefecture, Takahashi took up the sport when he was a second-grader in primary school at the encouragement of his father, Yoshimi. A year later, an acquaintance of Yoshimi’s gave the boy a left-handed club, which became the turning point that led the youth to hit from both sides of the ball.

Yoshimi’s theory for developing the swing was to hit as many balls as possible, and it was not unusual for Takahashi to hit several thousand in one day, including left-handed.

The teenager generally plays right-handed, although the left-handed shots give him a certain advantage. “I don’t get as much distance as I do hitting righty, but I am more accurate,” he said.

Of the 14 clubs in his bag, the 6- and 8-irons and the pitching wedge are left-handed.

“We’re still figuring out which 7-iron to use,” his father said.

On the first day at the Dunlop Srixon Fukushima Open, Takahashi hit left-handed four times, including on the par-4 ninth hole, when he used his pitching wedge for his second shot and put the ball within 3 meters of the pin.

“I don’t think there is another player like me in Japan or even in the world. I’m happy to get the attention,” Takahashi said.

One problem he has encountered is that, as there is a smaller variety of left-handed clubs available, he has to use a different model from his right-handed clubs. That sometimes leads to discrepancies in the distance he gets with each club.

At the Japan amateur championship in July, Takahashi was among the 64 who progressed to the match-play knockout rounds. At the Dunlop Srixon Fukushima Open, Takahashi failed to make the cut after finishing the second round in 110th place at 2 over. However, the attention he drew certainly gave a boost in his ambitions to turn pro in the future.

Right now, Takahashi’s dream is to have a left-handed contest with veteran Shingo Katayama, who has a lifetime exemption on the pro tour. “I’ve heard that Mr. Katayama hits left-handed shots during practice. It would be wonderful if I could have a left-handed showdown with him,” Takahashi said with a gleam in his eyes.