Big names upstaged by Hawaiian teenager Fujikawa

James Corrigan,New York
Wednesday 01 April 2009 17:47

They were all on the range here yesterday, as the field assembled for this week's US Open. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els... this was a parade of the giants for the lucky onlookers. Except their focus was elsewhere - on a Hawaiian teenager making history, no less. But no, it was not Michelle Wie.

Tadd Fujikawa is a whole foot shorter and a whole year younger. He is also about $10m (£5.4m) poorer. But on Thursday he will have something Wie does not have when he becomes the second-youngest participant in the year's second major (Tyrell Garth was 14 in 1941). And he will undoubtedly become the shortest as well.

At 5ft 1in, the schoolboy is a sight to behold among the skyscrapers at Winged Foot, drawing gasps as he fires a driver almost as high as he is towards, and some-times past, the 300-yard mark. "I can't believe I'm here. This is pretty overwhelming," he said, before going back to overwhelming everybody watching.

The path which has taken him here makes his story even more startling. Fujikawa won the only spot on offer at his island's final qualifier last week, shooting 71-70 to do so, finishing an incredible journey that had included him holing a 60-footer in a play-off to scrape through pre-qualifying. Wie won that particular event, but failed by five shots in her "sectional" in New Jersey. "I feel privileged I got here and Michelle didn't," he said.

But Fujikawa is not as privileged as Wie and never will be. For until he enrolled at Kevin Ralbovsky's school dedicated to golf and brought his handicap down from 13 to plus 2.5 in a little under three years, Fujiwaka was trained by his aunt.

"She took me the range and I shanked my first shot," he said. "But I fell in love with the game there and then. I was into judo before that, earning my brown belt which is one from a black belt, and I won four national age titles."

The confident 15-year-old has not even bothered checking to see who he has been drawn with and seemed undisturbed by the professionals around him. "A few have come up and said hello," Fujikawa said. "I didn't catch their names." They sure caught his.

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