Teeing off with the Canon President
Photograph: Preeti Verma Lal
Incidentally, it was not his first tryst with a ball. Konishi had played baseball and knew “how to hit a ball.” But as the Big Boss watched and he teed off, all his easy notions about hitting a ball crumbled. However, that difficulty did not daunt Konishi. “When I first started playing golf I enjoyed it, I played to enjoy it. It was not a serious affair for me,” says Konishi who has been a regular at the courses during his stints in USA and Singapore.
Had it not been for the Big Boss who loved the greens, Kensaku Konishi, President and CEO, Canon India, would have never gotten hooked to the game. Thirty years ago, he first teed off at the New South Wales course in Sydney because the Big Boss was watching. Since that day he has stayed faithful to the game. And to Canon. In the true ancient Japanese tradition of no job-hopping. For the man who drives an Audi and has shunned all other leisure temptations for 18 holes it has been 30 years of golf. It has been 30 years at Canon.
The first tee was difficult. To say, the least. Incidentally, it was not his first tryst with a ball. Konishi had played baseball and knew “how to hit a ball.” But as the Big Boss watched and he teed off, all his easy notions about hitting a ball crumbled. However, that difficulty did not daunt Konishi. “When I first started playing golf I enjoyed it, I played to enjoy it. It was not a serious affair for me,” says Konishi who has been a regular at the courses during his stints in USA and Singapore.
No, he does not play golf in Japan. “In Japan I am a family man; I take care of the family.” He talks of his wife and son who live in Japan and his “temporary bachelorhood” as he pitches tents in various countries helping Canon become a household name.
As the President and CEO, Konishi always has a packed itinerary and he rarely gets to play more than four times a month. Yes, he regrets that. Does he dream of playing golf every day? “No, not every day. Never,” says Konishi vehemently. “I would love to play once every two days so that I could play one day and sit and regret the lousy shots the next day. I would set aside the second day for rewinding images of the previous day’s play. That would be perfect - one day to play, one day to regret.”
Konishi laughs as he talks of that autumn day at the Delhi Golf Course that he could have regretted all his life. He had hit a blind and when the ball swung out of his sight, Konishi thought the trajectory was absolutely perfect. However, as if on a whim, the ball skewed a little to the right, spoiling that perfect trajectory. “Thank god, for the ball’s whim. Had it gone straight it would have hit the Japanese ambassador’s wife bang on the head,” adds Konishi, still intrigued about what would have happened if the ball actually hit the ambassador’s wife. He is not even hazarding a definite guess. “Probably I would have been packed off to Japan,” he shrugs.
Though thirty summers have gone at the greens, but Konishi still remembers the New South Wales course with love. “Set along the coastline, the course is beautiful. It has its hazards too, but more than the landscaping I love the course for sentimental reasons. After all, it was here that I first teed off.”
That first teeing off took a mores serious turn in Singapore, where he served as the Managing Director, Domestic Sales, Canon. On one occasion he was to officially tee off in front of a few hundred people. Much before that day dawned, Konishi took intensive golf lessons from a Japanese professional. “It really was intense. I would head to the course after work and the training lasted roughly six months. My coach was Japanese and we hit off really well,” remembers Konishi. The most treacherous part of the training was delearning all the golf that he had picked up earlier. “In golf you have to make extremely unnatural moves; for months I actually worked towards getting the stance and the swing right,” adds Konishi who plays with a handicap of 14.
From enjoyment, golf, for Konishi, has become the best way to stay fit. It is his exercise regimen, specially for his back. He never goes to the gym; the golf course is his extended gym. And while getting that twitch in his back right at the course, he also wants to attain consistency. “There are days I play very well, there are days when I hit badly. What I look forward to is consistency.”
Consistency is how far his aspirations stretch. Not that perfect Woodsian swing. “That is just a dream,” admits Konishi who has played with Vijay Singh in Singapore. “The difference in golfing abilities is so huge that you can only stand and admire. You can never play like that. It is even beyond your dreams.”
Such is Konishi’s love for golf that he never took to watching movies or jiving at a rock concert. All leisure time is reserved for golf. Whatever little he can spare is spent on reading or having his favourite Asian food and the “Indian curry.”
It is not just his todays that swerve towards golf, even his tomorrows do. When he retires Konishi wants to settle in Kuala Lumpur which is dotted with not-so-expensive, yet beautiful golf courses. He wants to hit that perfect one in a hole and yes, drive a Jaguar. Until that day arrives, Konishi waits for that lazy weekend morning when he gets into his Audi to reach a green and play his favourite shot. The Big Boss was watching when he first teed off, today golfers watch Konishi as he swings with incredible élan.
in Golf Style, January 2008