Teen's amazing story deserves golf world's attention
Sixteen-year-old Tadd Fujikawa finished tied for 20th in the Sony Open golf tournament.
THE golf world had its first glimpse of Tadd Fujikawa in June, when he was the youngest player since 1941 to qualify for the U.S. Open. The amazing skill, verve and life experience of the undersize Moanalua High sophomore received full exposure at last weekend's Sony Open
and should lead to many encores in the months and years ahead.
Less than a week after his 16th birthday, Fujikawa finished his round Thursday with a birdie, par and eagle to become the youngest player in 50 years -- and at 5-foot-1 undoubtedly the shortest ever -- to make a weekend cut on the PGA Tour, with three strokes to spare.
The remarkable display continued into the weekend, and Fujikawa finished the tournament tied for 20th, worth $52,000 if he were a pro. His score bettered those of six former major champions, including Vijay Singh, winner of the previous week's Mercedes-Benz Championship on Maui.
Grinning from ear to ear and exchanging high-fives wherever offered from a gallery of thousands, Fujikawa declared that he was there to have fun. California golf instructor Ben Alexander advises on the PGA Web site that all golfers can learn from the boy's attitude.
Fujikawa takes little time in preparing for each of his shots, and he has been on the fast track since birth, which came 3 1/2 months prematurely. He underwent five surgeries to combat infection of his intestines, and doctors gave him a 50-50 chance of surviving; he regards himself lucky to be alive. Eight-seven percent of respondents in an online poll by the Golf Channel, which televised the Sony Open, regard "the inspirational story of Tadd Fujikawa" as the year's best story.
The stocky teen's effervescence during the tournament was infectious. Among those more quiet in cheering him on were PGA players who have been ambivalent about the frequent appearances, through sponsor exemptions, of 17-year-old Michelle Wie, who missed the weekend cut by 14 strokes.
"There's not a player in this field who isn't rooting for this kid," 11-year PGA veteran Harrison Frazar said of Fujikawa.
The clear message from the men's tour players is that Wie, who turned pro in 2005, should focus more on trying to win her first LPGA tournament than on trying to make the cut in men's events. Fujikawa is almost certain now to be offered sponsor exemptions, placing Hawaii prodigies in prominent positions on both the men's and women's circuits.