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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    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


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    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


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    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


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    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


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    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”