DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Tadd Fujikawa, 16, celebrated yesterday after making an eagle putt on the 18th hole and finishing at 3 under to make the Sony Open cut.
Fujikawa makes cut
The 16-year-old is the youngest golfer to advance to weekend play in the tournament
Tadd Fujikawa is lucky to be here.
We're not talking about the Sony Open. That wasn't luck at Waialae Country Club yesterday. That was skill.
He's lucky to be here, as in alive and breathing. When he was born, the doctors told Fujikawa's parents it was about 50 percent that he would make it, Tadd said. A coin flip.
He was born 3 1/2 months early and weighing 1 pound, 15 ounces. Yesterday, 16 years later, Fujikawa survived again -- this time with the golf world watching.
With an electric smile and precocious shot-making skill bursting from his 5-foot-1-inch frame, Fujikawa fired a 4-under-par 66 at Waialae Country Club. Coupled with his first-round 71, it gave him a place in PGA and Hawaii golf history and the hearts of anyone who loves the underdog.
The Moanalua High School sophomore became the second-youngest player to make a PGA Tour cut and the youngest to ever advance to the weekend in this tournament.
Bob Panasik was 15 when he made the cut at the 1957 Canadian Open. Fujikawa turned 16 on Monday.
The only amateur in this year's field, Fujikawa is the first nonpro to make the cut here since 20-year-old Donald Hurter did it in 1981.
Fujikawa completed the round in style with a 15-foot putt for an eagle on hole No. 18.
Not bad for a player who was introduced at the first tee as "Todd Fujikawa." And on the front nine, someone yelled out, "Nice shot, Chad."
He did not, however, enter the tournament a complete unknown, either locally or nationally. Fujikawa has been playing in local amateur tournaments for several years, and he qualified last summer for the U.S. Open. He did not make the cut there, but Fujikawa (the youngest to ever play in the event) was the big story at Winged Foot in New York early in the week.
He said being in the same tournament with Tiger Woods and other big-time golfers last summer helped him yesterday.
"I think knowing what to expect really helped me and helped me prepare for this tournament," Fujikawa said.
Was he nervous?
"No. Not at all. I just told myself at the beginning of the round, 'Just go out there, hit the shots,'" Fujikawa said. "And I knew I had the shots in my bag. I just needed to execute. I did that, and it's a good feeling when you can hit a shot that you want to hit."
Fujikawa, who made four birdies and two bogeys in addition to the eagle yesterday, goes into today's third round tied for 25th place with 10 other golfers. He is paired with Nathan Green of Australia. They tee off at 10:57 this morning.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tadd Fujikawa shot a 66 to finish 3 shots under par yesterday at Waialae Country Club, making the cut at the Sony Open. He turned 16 on Monday and is the youngest player in 50 years to make a PGA Tour cut. After finishing his round yesterday, fans rushed to get his autograph. Fujikawa will tee off at 10:57 a.m. today.
When Fujikawa walked up the 18th fairway toward the green yesterday, playing partners Boo Weekley and Steve Wheatcroft walked behind him, a gesture of respect for the round he had played to that point.
"They are true gentlemen and they did that, and it was really nice of them to do that," Fujikawa said.
When his putt curled in for the eagle, it generated the loudest applause of the day.
"That was just like the loudest roar I've ever heard in my life," he said. "That was unbelievable. I have no words to explain what that feels like."
Fujikawa overshadowed Michelle Wie and the five other local players who also did not make the cut.
"I think it's great," said Wie, who shot 14 over in the two rounds and was third to last, not counting disqualified players. "It's great, being how young he is. I'm rooting for him."
So were hundreds of others yesterday. Fujikawa was followed by a large gallery that continued to grow as the afternoon went on. He tried to thank them all.
"I really wouldn't like people not acknowledging me when I say something to them," he said, "so I will do anything I can to acknowledge them and treat them how I want to be treated."
It is what he has been taught by his parents, Derrick and Lori. They also emphasized discipline and toughness by encouraging Tadd to compete in judo when he was young.
He took up golf when he was around 8 years old, and it eventually took the time he previously spent on judo.
"About 11 or 12, I started getting more competitive, and I tried to improve my golf game," Fujikawa said.
Lori, who often serves as Tadd's caddie, said she was surprised with how well her son played because of the course.
"The course is set up totally different for the PGA, and it's more difficult," she said. "But he's done a great job and we're all proud of him."
She does not expect her son to get big-headed with the attention he has received.
"He would get some ... some ... discipline," she said.
Tadd does not have a coach at this point, so Lori helps him.
"I just video his swing," she said. "He checks his own swing. We have a few people who help out."
One of them is Garret Hayashi, who is caddying for Fujikawa this week.
"He knows my game and we get along very well," Fujikawa said. "He caddied for me in the qualifier. I shot very well in the qualifier, and I said, 'It's working great so why change,' right?"
Tadd's friends do not expect him to change at all, even though he will likely get a big reception at Moanalua on Monday.
"I think he'll be the hero of the school. Everyone will be congratulating him," Moanalua freshman Christian Agosto said. "But it won't change him. He has a really good personality."
Scott Hayashi, Garret's son, said Tadd is just a cool guy who happens to be a great golfer.
"He's down to earth," Scott said.