Tadd Fujikawa stole the spotlight from the pros at this year's Sony Open in Hawaii.
Learning the ropes at the Sony Open
Star-Bulletin city reporter Da Silva gets a newcomer's look at tournament golf and Tadd Fujikawa
WE HAD A newcomer in our midst on Sunday, a city reporter being asked to venture out into the world of Tadd Fujikawa.
These unfortunate lads and lasses usually spend their days at City Council sessions or Legislative committee meetings or Board of Education get-togethers that would leave most of us wanting to go back to school to study anything else.
But today was his lucky day.
Instead of having Mufi, Alexandre Da Silva got Tadd in an up-close-and-personal view afforded the fortunate few allowed inside the ropes. Today, he was at the Waialae Country Club receiving a crash course on golf, while having a nice buffet lunch shared with the best players in the world. Kind of a last supper, if you will.
Because what awaited him was an afternoon of sheer madness; a 4-hour walk that reveals so much more about golf than can ever be captured on TV. It required a briefing, yes. We couldn't send him out there in the madding crowd without an understanding of the rules that go with being allowed inside the ropes.
Don't distract the golfers. Don't obstruct a paying customer's view. Don't stray too close to the greens, don't fall into the sand traps, don't eat, don't drink, don't talk, don't cough, don't sneeze, don't smoke.
And above all, don't take your cell phone. You might as well have a bullhorn at a funeral.
"OK, BUBBA. I think we have you prepared for the basics. That badge will get you in the gate, but what we're about to give you is equal to a backstage pass at a U2 concert.
"This little piece of paper that has 'Sunday Sony Open, Inside Ropes Access' written on it is as valuable as your passport. By the end of the day, you're going to be glad you had this piece of paper. Believe me."
After our quick bite, we set out on this jostling journey not often seen on Sunday at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Kalani Simpson was with us, so were Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson and several other local reporters and TV camera crews about to tell Fujikawa's story. The first tee looked like the 18th hole at The Masters. There were people stacked 10 deep at the tee box and it wasn't much better 100 yards down the fairway, either.
"What's cool about golf is little Tadd over there is playing with Jim Furyk. You might not know who he is, but the only guy on the planet better than him is Tiger Woods. And Tadd's walking 18 holes in a professional tournament with him. Kind of like you being LaDainian Tomlinson's lead blocker."
Furyk bombed his drive right down the middle. Fujikawa hit a bullet of his own, but it appeared from our vantage point that it had gone left and landed in the bunker. It was a portent of things to come for Fujikawa. He had a lot of sand in his shoes.
"Let's get to the ropes. We do not want to get caught up in this throng just yet. I know you have to venture out there among the English eventually, but let's do it at a safer vantage point."
AT FIRST, THE marshals thought we were some crazy fans trying to walk with Furyk and Fujikawa up the first fairway, but Alexandre quickly learned the value of his piece of paper stuck to the top of his badge. They waved us on through as we made our way down the fairway before Furyk and Fujikawa prepared for their second shots.
All around us people were moving like they're on lunch break in Manhattan. Kalani is a veteran of these events, but he's not following his blocker properly. Perhaps he needs to review the position management section in the media guide on how to use your press pass wisely.
"I thought you were a halfback in college. No wonder you were Division III. You have no lateral movement."
We got our spots for the second shots by positioning ourselves 50 yards out front. We turned to Alexandre and said, "Access to the putting surface is the most critical vantage point. There will be people already up around the green waiting for the golfers and the crowd that's following them. Worlds may collide outside the ropes, but all the golfer is going to see or hear is your pass fluttering in the wind. You are about to be amazed how quiet 3,000 people can be. Don't move unless told so."
Fujikawa managed a nice par as did Furyk and from there it was on to the second hole. At this point, we turned to Alexandre and said, "Bubba, you're on your own." He appeared fit for duty as he ventured into Fujikawa mania.
There were a few times later that day that our paths crossed. We saw Fujikawa hug his grandmother between the fourth green and the fifth tee box. Oh how handy that pass can be. Hardly anyone saw it. And it allowed us to tell Alexandre later on, "Hey, his grandmother is in that cart going up the right side of the fairway. First time we've seen her. Good luck on your mission."
HE DISAPPEARED INTO the crowd. We thought we maybe saw him dive in front of the cart or maybe somebody pushed him, it was hard to tell. Caught a glimpse of him being outside the ropes at a bridge crossing at the ninth. One of the key rules for position management is you need to know where the bridges are and to position yourself with the golfers so you cross first. Otherwise, it's like trying to get on H-1 in rush hour.
Should have told him about that. And we didn't see him again until the interview session back in the Waialae media center 4 hours later. A nice front-page article was the result in Monday's paper. It was clear he had survived perhaps his only professional golf assignment and lived to tell the tale.
We wanted to tell him, "Hey bubba, what's better than hearing Fluff tell Furyk, 'Your feet are making you move left on your putts.' Or watching Furyk drift down the third fairway toward Fujikawa after the 16-year Moanalua High School sophomore chunked his second shot into the water. He wanted to make sure Fujikawa was aware of the rules. Furyk displayed that kind of respect all afternoon. Didn't big-time him once.
"Or the time Fujikawa chipped onto the fourth green and was walking across to mark his golf ball. Fluff motioned for Fujikawa to give him the ball. He'd clean it for him because Fujikawa's caddie was too far away. That's sportsmanship."
And you don't get that from TV. Golf is a game best watched with other people scampering up the fairway to get a better look at the next shot with you. You can sit in the stands at certain holes or you can drift along for hours soaking it all in with every swing. There were thousands doing just that.
Our city lad saw the best golf has to give. He may be a sportswriter yet.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org