Fujikawa Still Looking for First Paycheck

By Associated PressJanuary 12, 2008, 5:00 pm
HONOLULU, Hawaii - He thought he had the game and was determined to play golf for a living, so he turned pro before finishing high school and spent two years traveling the world as he tried to make it to the big leagues.
 
Maybe it will pay off at the Sony Open.
 
Kevin Na went into the third round Saturday only two shots out of the lead.
 
The other kid taking a similar route is Tadd Fujikawa, who missed the cut for the ninth straight time since turning pro last summer. Fujikawa made history last year at the Sony Open when he was 16 as the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut on the PGA TOUR.
 
The encore didn't go according to plan.
 
A year ago, he dropped his putter and raised his arms in triumph after an eagle putt in the second round for a 66. On Friday, he lifted his head to the blue skies over Oahu and closed his eyes as his shots found the rough and his putts caught the lip.
 
He went 74-70 and missed the cut by four shots.
 
Fujikawa has played four times on the PGA TOUR, twice on the Nationwide Tour, and once each in Japan, Europe and on the Canadian Tour. He is still waiting to cash his first paycheck.
 
The pressure likely will build.
 
Questions are sure to follow whether Fujikawa, a 5-foot-1 junior in high school with a big heart and impeccable manners, made the right choice by turning pro so early.
 
'I think it was the right decision,' he said. 'I have no regrets as of right now, and hopefully throughout my golf career.'
 
Where that career takes him over the next few years, starting with 2008, is uncertain.
 
His next stop is the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the second of seven exemptions he is allowed on the PGA TOUR. His agent, Kevin Bell, has letters out to just about every tournament as he tries to build a schedule.
 
Spots on the Nationwide Tour are hard to find, a circuit filled with players grinding to make the PGA TOUR. He received an offer a few weeks ago to play in Abu Dhabi, but had to turn it down because he could not get from Hawaii to the Middle East until the early hours of Wednesday. They are looking at Europe and Japan.
 
The road looks even bumpier because it starts in Honolulu, and that naturally evokes comparisons of another teenager from Hawaii who turned pro as a junior in high school. Michelle Wie is now in a tailspin, brought on by injury and questionable advice.
 
Fujikawa, however, finds inspiration from Na.
 
Born in South Korea, Na moved to southern California when he was 8, picked up the game a few years later and was one of the top juniors when he dropped out of high school and turned pro.
 
He failed at Q-school, then went to the Asian Tour and won the Volvo Masters of Asia, which got him into a World Golf Championship at age 19. He made it through Q-school later that year and has kept his card each year.
 
Na's advice to Fujikawa was to keep playing.
 
'He just needs to play a lot of tournaments, whether that's Nationwide, PGA TOUR, any tournament he can play anywhere,' Na said. 'He's popular, so he can get a lot of sponsor exemptions overseas. I think that's a great place to go, because you get to see the different parts of the world as a young person, and I think that really opens up your mind.'
 
Fujikawa comes from a humble background. His father is a self-employed contractor, his mother works part-time at an auto repair shop. He goes to public school, plays on public courses.
 
One reason for turning pro was financial. Fujikawa found it difficult to pay for travel to amateur tournaments, and a few endorsements help with the travel. He has signed deals with Aloha Petroleum, Kraft Foods Hawaii and Hawaii Medical Assurance Association. Most of the deals are tied to appearances in Hawaii, where he enjoys celebrity status.
 
'His parents only want him to get out and play tournaments,' Bell said. 'They're not looking for $500,000 endorsements. That's not realistic. They want to make sure he likes what he's doing. His goal is to get his tour card when he's 21. If he can do it sooner, even better.'
 
Fujikawa had more than one kindred spirit at Waialae.
 
Sean O'Hair comes from an entirely different background. He was groomed to be a star by his father, who enrolled him in the top golf academies, trained his son like he were in boot camp and looked upon him as a business opportunity. O'Hair's father had him turn pro before his senior year in high school, and they traveled the country trying to Monday qualify on the Nationwide Tour, meeting failure at every turn.
 
Only after he broke away from his father and got married did O'Hair figure out a better plan.
 
He played a mini-tour in New England, then the Gateway Tour in the west, returned to New England and made it through Q-school when he was 22. He was the PGA TOUR rookie of the year, winning the John Deere Classic and finishing 18th on the money list.
 
O'Hair doesn't know Fujikawa well, but he knows what he's going through.
 
'There's nothing wrong with him struggling,' O'Hair said. 'If you don't fail, you'll never learn.'
 
The career choice was made last summer, and there's no turning back. The only thing Fujikawa can do now is keep playing.
 
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    With baby on the way, Piller WDs from Zurich

    By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

    AVONDALE, La. – With wife Gerina set to give birth to their first child, Martin Piller figured he’d need to check his phone every few holes at the Zurich Classic.

    He didn’t even make it that far.

    Piller withdrew before the start of the first round Thursday.

    Piller’s partner, Joel Dahmen, who only got into the field because of Piller’s status as the team’s A player, was allowed to remain in the event.

    Piller was replaced in the field by Denny McCarthy. The new team of McCarthy-Dahmen will tee off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

    The format change at the Zurich should make things easier for the new teammates. The first round is now best ball, not alternate shot.

    The only event that Gerina, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cupper, has played this season was the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. The couple’s baby was due May 3, and she said that she plans to take off the entire year.

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    China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

    By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

    BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

    Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

    Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

    Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.

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    Putting prepared Park's path back to No. 1

    By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 12:13 am

    Inbee Park brings more than her unshakably tranquil demeanor back to the top of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week.

    She brings more than her Olympic gold medal and seven major championships to the Mediheal Championship on the outskirts of San Francisco.

    She brings a jarring combination of gentleness and ruthlessness back to the top of the rankings.

    Park may look as if she could play the role of Mother Teresa on some goodwill tour, but that isn’t what her opponents see when she’s wielding her Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet.

    She’s like Mother Teresa with Lizzy Borden’s axe.

    When Park gets on one of her rolls with the putter, she scares the hell out of the rest of the tour.

    At her best, Park is the most intimidating player in women’s golf today.

    “Inbee makes more 20- and 30-footers on a regular basis than anyone I know,” seven-time major championship winner Karrie Webb said.

    All those long putts Park can hole give her an aura more formidable than any power player in the women’s game.

    “A good putter is more intimidating than someone who knocks it out there 280 yards,” Webb said “Even if Inbee misses a green, you know she can hole a putt from anywhere. It puts more pressure on your putter knowing you’re playing with someone who is probably going to make them all.”

    Park, by the way, said Webb and Ai Miyazato were huge influences on her putting. She studied them when she was coming up on tour.

    Webb, though, believes there’s something internal separating Park. It isn’t just Park’s ability to hole putts that makes her so intimidating. It’s the way she carries herself on the greens.

    “She never gets ruffled,” Webb said. “She says she gets nervous, but you never see a change in her. If you’re going toe to toe with her, that’s what is intimidating. Even if you’re rolling in putts on top of her, it doesn’t seem to bother her. She’s definitely a player you have to try not to pay attention to when you’re paired with her, because you can get caught up in that.”


    Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship


    Park has led the LPGA in putts per greens in regulation five of the last 10 years.

    Brad Beecher has been on Park’s bag for more than a decade, back before she won her first major, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. He has witnessed the effect Park can have on players when she starts rolling in one long putt after another.

    “You have those times when she’ll hole a couple long putts early, and you just know, it’s going to be one of those days,” Beecher said. “Players look at me like, `Does she ever miss?’ or `How am I going to beat this?’ You see players in awe of it sometimes.”

    Park, 29, won in her second start of 2018, after taking seven months off with a back injury. In six starts this year, she has a victory, two ties for second-place and a tie for third. She ended Shanshan Feng’s 23-week run at No. 1 with a tie for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open last weekend.

    What ought to disturb fellow tour pros is that Park believes her ball striking has been carrying her this year. She’s still waiting for her putter to heat up. She is frustrated with her flat stick, even though she ranks second in putts per greens in regulation this season.

    “Inbee Park is one of the best putters ever,” said LPGA Hall of Famer Sandra Haynie, a 42-time LPGA winner. “She’s dangerous on the greens.”

    Haynie said she would rank Park with Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright and Nancy Lopez as the best putters she ever saw.

    Hall of Famer Joanne Carner says Park is the best putter she has seen since Lopez.

    “I thought Nancy was a great putter,” Carner said. “Inbee is even better.”

    Park uses a left-hand low grip, with a mostly shoulder move and quiet hands.

    Lopez used a conventional grip, interlocking, with her right index finger down the shaft. She had a more handsy stroke than Park.

    Like Lopez, Park prefers a mallet-style putter, and she doesn’t switch putters much. She is currently playing with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter. She won the gold medal with it two years ago. She used an Oddysey White Ice Sabertooth winged mallet when she won three majors in a row in 2013.

    Lopez hit the LPGA as a rookie in 1978 with a Ray Cook M1 mallet putter and used it for 20 years. It’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame today.

    “I watch Inbee, and I think, `Wow, that’s how I used to putt,’” Lopez said. “You can see she’s not mechanical at all. So many players today are mechanical. They forget if you just look at the hole and stroke it, you’re going to make more putts.”

    Notably, Park has never had a putting coach, not really. Her husband and swing coach, Gi Hyeob Nam, will look at her stroke when she asks for help.

    “When I’m putting, I’m concentrating on the read and mostly my speed,” Park said. “I don’t think mechanically about my stroke at all, unless I think there’s something wrong with it, and then I’ll have my husband take a look. But, really, I rely on my feel. I don’t think about my stroke when I’m out there playing.”

    Hall of Famer Judy Rankin says Park’s remarkably consistent speed is a key to her putting.

    “Inbee is definitely a feel putter, and her speed is so consistent, all the time,” Rankin said. “You have to assume she’s a great green reader.”

    Beecher says Park’s ability to read greens is a gift. She doesn’t rely on him for that. She reads greens herself.

    “I think what impresses me most is Inbee has a natural stroke,” Beecher said. “There’s nothing too technical. It’s more straight through and straight back, but I think the key element of the stroke is that she keeps the putter so close to the ground, all the time, on the takeaway and the follow-through. It helps with the roll and with consistency.”

    Park said that’s one of her fundamentals.

    “I keep it low, almost like I’m hitting the ground,” Park said. “When I don’t do that, I miss more putts.”

    Beecher believes the real reason Park putts so well is that the putter brought her into the game. It’s how she got started, with her father, Gun Gyu Park, putting the club in her hands as a child. She loved putting on her own.

    “That’s how she fell in love with the game,” Beecher said. “Getting started that way, it’s played a huge role in her career.”

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    Teams announced for NCAA DI women's regionals

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 10:50 pm

    Seventy-two teams and an additional 24 individuals were announced Wednesday as being selected to compete in the NCAA Division I women's regionals, May 7-9.

    Each of the four regional sites will consist of 18 teams and an extra six individual players, whose teams were not selected. The low six teams and low three individuals will advance to the NCAA Championship, May 18-23, hosted by Oklahoma State at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

    The four regional sites include Don Veller Seminole Golf Course & Club in Tallahassee, Fla., hosted by Florida State; UT Golf Club in Austin, Texas, hosted by the University of Texas; University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., hosted by the University of Wisconsin; TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif., hosted by Stanford University.

    Arkansas, Duke, UCLA and Alabama are the top seeds in their respective regionals. Arizona State, the third seed in the Madison regional, is the women's defending champion. Here's a look at the regional breakdown, along with teams and players:

    Austin Regional Madison Regional San Francisco Regional Tallahassee Regional
    Arkansas Duke UCLA Alabama
    Texas USC Stanford Furman
    Michigan State Arizona State South Carolina Arizona
    Florida Northwestern Kent State Washington
    Auburn Illinois Oklahoma State Wake Forest
    Oklahoma Purdue North Carolina Vanderbilt
    Houston Iowa State Colorado Florida State
    Miami (Fla.) Virginia Louisville Clemson
    Baylor Wisconsin N.C. State Georgia
    Texas A&M Campbell Mississippi Tennessee
    BYU Ohio State Cal UNLV
    East Carolina Notre Dame San Diego State Kennesaw State
    Texas Tech Old Dominion Pepperdine Denver
    Virginia Tech Oregon State Oregon Coastal Carolina
    UTSA Idaho Long Beach State Missouri
    Georgetown Murray State Grand Canyon Charleston
    Houston Baptist North Dakota State Princeton Richmond
    Missouri State IUPUI Farleigh Dickinson Albany
           
    Brigitte Dunne (SMU) Connie Jaffrey (Kansas State) Alivia Brown (Washington State) Hee Ying Loy (E. Tennessee State)
    Xiaolin Tian (Maryland) Pinyada Kuvanun (Toledo) Samantha Hutchinson (Cal-Davis) Claudia De Antonio (LSU)
    Greta Bruner (TCU) Pun Chanachai (New Mexico State) Ingrid Gutierrez (New Mexico) Fernanda Lira (Central Arkansas)
    Katrina Prendergast (Colorado State) Elsa Moberly (Eastern Kentucky) Abegail Arevalo (San Jose State) Emma Svensson (Central Arkansas)
    Ellen Secor (Colorado State) Erin Harper (Indiana) Darian Zachek (New Mexico) Valentina Giraldo (Jacksonville State)
    Faith Summers (SMU) Cara Basso (Penn State) Christine Danielsson (Cal-Davis) Kaeli Jones (UCF)