Two Hawaiian Teens - Too Totally Different

By Associated PressOctober 30, 2007, 4:00 pm
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Someone once told Paul Goydos he should go into the record books for his victory at the Sony Open for becoming the first player to win a PGA TOUR event against a field that included a 5-foot boy and a 6-foot girl.
 
One was Tadd Fujikawa. The other was Michelle Wie.
 
Both are teenagers from Oahu who turned pro before they finished 11th grade and before they had a driver's license. Both have been criticized for giving up their youth. Neither of them has made a PGA TOUR cut as a professional.
 
That's where the similarities end.
 
'She's bigger than me -- definitely bigger,' the pint-sized Fujikawa said with a laugh Tuesday morning on the Palm Course at Disney, where he has received a sponsor's exemption at the TOUR's final event of the year. 'Some people compare me and Michelle, but I don't think that's a true comparison. We're totally different.'
 
So totally different in so many ways.
 
Wie's career was orchestrated, if not manipulated. She played 29 times against the pros before she became one herself a week before her 16th birthday. Her market value rose until she cashed in on endorsements with Sony and Nike, eventually Omega, and had a total income of about $20 million after one year.
 
She signed a management contract with the William Morris Agency, known more for its Hollywood stars than golfers. Now in her freshman year at Stanford and rarely breaking par, some wonder whether Wie's best golf is behind her.
 
Fujikawa also took the fast track, but he is starting slowly.
 
The Children's Miracle Network Classic at Disney is his third sponsor's exemption this year. He missed the cut at the Reno-Tahoe Open and the Fry's.com Open in Las Vegas, only breaking par once. He missed the cut in two Nationwide Tour events. His last exemption of the year will be the Casio World Open in Japan next month.
 
Yet, the kid is showing no signs of being discouraged.
 
'Hopefully, within the next five years I can get my card,' he said. 'That's one of my main concerns. As long as I have that goal and stick to the plan, it should be fine. I don't want to rush into anything. It's tough. But I'm learning, and I'm definitely improving.'
 
If there is no rush, why turn pro?
 
Fujikawa felt it was his best route to becoming a better golfer, not an instant millionaire. His mother works at an auto body repair shop. His father works in construction. It was a strain on the family for him to seek better competition, which means leaving the islands.
 
'Financially, we're not that high up on the list,' he said.
 
He and his mother, Lori, spent a month on the mainland last year after the U.S. Open to play junior circuits. She brought a rice cooker from home and purchased a frying pan at a retail store, then found the cheapest hotel with rooms where she could cook.
 
'I left the pan in the last hotel room we were in before going back to Hawaii,' she said.
 
This clearly was not a get-rich-quick scheme. Fujikawa was decked in Callaway garb at the Reno-Tahoe Open and wore Taylor-Made at Disney as he continues to test equipment. More than three months after turning pro, he still doesn't have an endorsement deal. His only earnings since he turned pro has come from pro-ams.
 
'It's not about fast money. If it was, we'd have had that by now,' said Kevin Bell, his agent and an attorney for Patton Boggs specializing in intellectual property and patents. 'This is about wanting to further his golf career.'
 
If Wie's career was carefully planned, Fujikawa's was almost by accident.
 
With most of the attention on Wie trying to become the first woman to qualify for the men's U.S. Open last year at Canoe Brook, Fujikawa became the youngest qualifier at age 15 when he won the sectional in Hawaii against a 10-man field.
 
When they were on the same golf course in January at the Sony Open, Fujikawa stole the show. Four days after he turned 16, he became the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut on the PGA TOUR and the buzz didn't die until he finished in a tie for 20th. He followed that by winning the Pearl Open, where about half the field is comprised of Japanese pros.
 
Suddenly, the attention and the temptation became too much to ignore.
 
Friends of the family asked Bell if he could recommend an attorney, and with his workload quiet, Bell flew to Honolulu. When he met with Mrs. Fujikawa, she had an 8-inch stack of business cards from people wanting a piece of the kid.
 
'She said, 'I've never needed an attorney my whole life,'' Bell said.
 
The offers ranged from doing a PSA for a recycling company to making a special appearance an option. The first concern was making sure Fujikawa didn't violate his amateur status, but Bell sensed the boy wasn't long for amateur ranks, and that his parents knew it.
 
'They were afraid to let him go pro,' he said. 'But they were equally scared of holding him back. He's mature about his golf game. He wants to be treated like a pro, and he acts like one.'
 
Fujikawa knows he has a long way to go. He has a history of beating the odds, starting with being born 3 1/2 months early, so small he could fit into his grandfather's palm. He was hospitalized for three months and given a 50-50 chance to survive.
 
That his last PGA TOUR start comes across the street from the Magic Kingdom is but a coincidence. Fujikawa looks like he belongs in line for Space Mountain, not on the tee trying to earn his first paycheck.
 
Most players will take time to hit the theme parks. Fujikawa has math homework to finish.
 
'I love Disney, but I'm not really into the parks,' he said. 'Besides, I'm here to work.'
 
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.