Fame follows Fujikawa to school
Tadd Fujikawa was hoping to have a normal back-to-school day yesterday.
But after last weekend's Sony Open golf tournament, a normal day, or week, is "not gonna happen," he said.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann declared his first day back to school as "Tadd Fujikawa Day." And even before he headed to Moanalua High School, the 16-year-old began his day at home with interviews on the Golf Channel.
When arriving on campus with about 2,000 students, he was met by cameras from local and national media, who were waiting for a news conference put together by the school.
"Right now Tadd Fujikawa is the biggest story in golf, period," said Golf Channel announcer Mark Rolfing. "They just want to see what a day in the life of Tadd Fujikawa is gonna be like. Obviously this one is gonna be different than any other day going back to school."
Students at the school called him "superstar" and told him, "Hey, saw you on TV." Cameras intruded his chemistry class.
"I think people were intrigued by his whole life story," Rolfing said.
"They fell in love with him. I've never really seen the people's hearts gripped by someone like this, and they wanna see as much Tadd as they can get right now."
Fujikawa became the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut in a PGA Tournament. His life story, from his premature birth to his youthfulness, captured media attention during last week's tournament.
Fujikawa said he hopes the fervor surrounding his performance at the Waialae Country Club would die down by the end of the week. His mother has been receiving calls from across the state and the nation, "so I kind of feel sorry for her."
With all the attention he's been getting, Fujikawa said he probably won't be rejoining the school's golf team. Golf coach Joshua Suapaia put his hands together as if begging Fujikawa to play this year.
"By far, he's the most mentally disciplined individual I've seen," said Suapaia, who also is a physical education teacher and volleyball coach. "A lot of times I learn a lot more from him than he learns from me."
Suapaia said "the Tadd-manian Devil" or "Razz-ma-Tadd," as they sometimes called him on the golf team, is a great sportsman, and plays a great role in helping others in the team improve.
"It's really hard for me to play high school golf and do all these other tournaments," Fujikawa said. "I would really enjoy playing high school golf, but I'm not gonna do it this year. Sorry! I'll definitely think about it next year."
Regardless, Suapaia said Fujikawa represents the school well, especially with the mass hysteria surrounding him afterward.
Fujikawa said he's going to be taking it slow, not jumping into the professional ranks just yet. He said he thinks part of his appeal is the fact he's an amateur.
When he was asked what the difference between him and golf starlet Michelle Wie is, Fujikawa's initial response was: "She's taller? And she's a girl?"
Fujikawa said Wie was an inspiration to him years ago, and that she has set a good example for junior golfers.
Fellow students said Fujikawa was always popular and well-liked, because of his game and his outgoing personality.
Taylor Shimomura, a 16-year-old junior who played on the team with Fujikawa last year, said his former teammate's success will bode well for the team.
"Hopefully the golf program will rise up and maybe more people will come and play," Shimomura said.