I still haven't been to Disney World, but last week at the U.S. Open I did realize one of my dreams—playing in a major championship. I got to Pinehurst through sectional qualifying, and despite finishing a depressing 57th after a first-round 68, the Open was more fun than a big night of karaoke back home in Tokyo.
The merchandise tent at the Open was unbelievable. It was huge but a bit costly, even with my contestant discount—more than $800 for a jacket, four hats and about 20 T-shirts. I couldn't go home without anything to give to my friends.
The Open was my seventh PGA Tour event this year, and I'm convinced that I want to and can play here full-time. At the Memorial tournament the players got courtesy cars and all the food we could eat, and everybody at the club treated us like we were kings. We were pampered more than I ever have been in Japan. It also didn't hurt that I finished tied for seventh place. However, I did miss out on one of the tournament's best perks, milk shakes, because my English is not so good. You can bet I will try several of them next time.
When I made my first trip to the U.S. in January, I was curious to see if the Tour was really the best in the world. Now I know it is, and not just because of the perks. The competition is top-notch, and all the tournaments are like the Super Bowl because they are so well managed and have such huge crowds. With the $8,840 I won at Pinehurst, I'm 147th on the PGA Tour money list. My problem is that as a nonmember I can only accept one more sponsor's exemption in 1999, and if I haven't made enough money after that event I may have to go to Q school. I'll make it to the PGA Tour, though, and when I do, my favorite tournament will be the one where Mickey Mouse gives you the winner's check.