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Isao Aoki looking beyond Hall of Fame

Isao Aoki, who last month became the first Japanese man to join the World Golf Hall of Fame, said on his return home Tuesday that the honour did not mean the end of his 40-year career.

"If you consider the Hall of Fame as your goal, it will become the end of the line," Aoki, 61, told a news conference at Tokyo's Narita airport as he arrived for a two-week break from the US seniors' tour.

"There will be no end of the line until I die. So I cannot tell how many years I will go on playing or how many more tournaments I will win," he added.

It was his first home visit since the Florida-based pantheon of golfing greats added Aoki along with American Tom Kite, African/American Charlie Sifford and Canadian Marlene Stewart Streit three weeks ago to its membership, which now numbers more than 100.

They will be formally inducted in a ceremony in November.

Aoki, known for his unique swinging style which has earned him the nickname "Oriental Magic" and now a regular on the US seniors' tour, said: "It feels quite different to be congratulated here at home."

Last year, Hisako Higuchi, head of the Ladies Professional Golfers' Association of Japan, became the first Japanese member of the elite.

Aoki made world headlines for the first time in 1980 when he played with Jack Nicklaus over four rounds at the US Open and finished runner-up to the legendary American.

In 1983, he became the first Japanese man to win a US PGA tournament when he triumphed at the Hawaiian Open.

Aoki led the Japanese tour in earnings five times and has won tournaments on six different tours worldwide, including the 1978 World Match Play Championships.

On the US senior circuit, now called the Champions Tour, he has nine titles to his credit. His career high was marked in 1997 when he ranked third in earnings with 18 top-10 finishes.

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