journeyman Michael Boyd was paired with Fujikawa at this summer's Reno-Tahoe
Open and says, "I don't think length is going to be a determining factor
for him. He hit it as far as I did, and I think I'm plenty long enough to play
During his recent
cameos in the big leagues, Fujikawa has struggled with the pace and severity of
the greens, which have also exposed holes in his wedge play. Honolulu Country
Club has graciously granted him access to its facilities, but the club doesn't
exactly replicate Tour conditions: At the range Fujikawa hits restricted-flight
balls off artificial-turf mats, and the practice green is flat, slow and
grainy. "Yes, it is a big adjustment every time I go to a tournament,"
he says, "and I will admit that it has been a little frustrating to
struggle like I have. But I'm learning so much every time I play, and that's
the important thing."
With the help of
everyone around him, Fujikawa has remained focused on the big picture. He talks
about a five-year plan to make it to the Tour, which is not an unreasonable
timeline. Sean O'Hair and Kevin Na both turned pro before they graduated from
high school. Now in their early 20s, they have become successful pros.
PGA Tour bylaws
prevent anyone under 18 from holding a Tour card, so in the coming year
Fujikawa will cobble together a schedule that will likely feature detours in
Europe, Asia and on the Nationwide tour while he continues to be a high school
student. This semester he is on campus every morning for four classes: English,
Japanese, marine science and piano. A special dispensation from the school
allows him to take history and math as correspondence courses. "My whole
life is school, golf and sleep," Tadd says. "Oh, and eating,
There is a
sweetness and an innocence about Tadd that comes out in many ways, particularly
in how he dotes on his elders, especially his grandmother Ellen Higuchi, with
whom Tadd and his parents live. Ellen was 11 on the day Pearl Harbor was
attacked, and she lost the lower half of her right arm when antiaircraft
artillery tore through her home. (Her older brother was killed by
A direct link to
Pearl Harbor is only one indication of how deep Fujikawa's roots are in the
community. It surely says something that months ago he received his sponsor's
exemption to the Sony Open, while Wie still has not been invited even though
she has a lucrative endorsement deal with the title sponsor. "The
difference between Tadd and Michelle is that people here actually like
him," says one Sony executive, who requested anonymity. "They want him
to succeed because he's one of us."
A recent meal at a
locals' restaurant ended with the owner picking up the check, telling Tadd it
was because he has "the Aloha spirit." He'll need that kind of good
vibe at the Sony, during what is sure to be a pressure-packed week for a
teenager still finding his way as a pro. Then again, Fujikawa has such an
endless supply of youthful exuberance that it's hard to imagine him not having
a great time, regardless of his scores. When he looks ahead to the Sony, he is
most excited not about all the autographs he will sign or the TV interviews or
a chance to get his hands on a chunk of the $5 million purse. What he is
really fantasizing about is what awaits at the driving range. Says Tadd,
"When I hit balls now, some are yellow, some are blue, some have stripes,
some don't. You go to the range at a Tour event, and the balls are beautiful.
They have bag after bag of every brand, and they are all perfectly white. Oh,
my gawd! It's like you've died and gone to heaven!"
Once again, he'll
feel like the luckiest guy in the world.
Read Alan Shipnuck's Hot List at GOLF.com