The other day Tadd
Fujikawa and his father, Derrick, went fishing in the beautiful waters off Sand
Island in Honolulu, where Derrick has been a regular since he was a boy fishing
with his dad. The outing had to be crammed into the narrow window between
Tadd's morning at Moanalua High and his afternoon as a pro golfer, chock-full
as it was of media interviews, business meetings and a long practice session at
Honolulu Country Club under the watchful gaze of his mother, Lori. As Derrick
piloted the 19-foot skiff through some choppy water, both Fujikawas went to
great lengths to explain why no fish would be caught: The tide was too high,
fish don't bite in the afternoon, etc. According to Derrick, there was only one
glimmer: "Taddy boy is the luckiest guy in the world, so you never
know." ¶ Tadd, 16, has been so consumed by golf since he turned pro this
summer that he and his father hadn't been fishing together in a while. As Tadd
loosened up with a few idle casts, Derrick was unimpressed with his son's
deteriorated form. "You throw like a girl, bruddah." ¶ One so-so cast
was followed by one word of commentary: "Shank." ¶ Tadd simply rolled
his eyes. "He's always like this, unfortunately," he said. ¶ Derrick
and Tadd's conversation was a mishmash of English, Japanese and Hawaiian, a
reflection of the family's polyglot roots. Derrick finally stopped the boat in
his secret spot, above a cave in the reef, where he claimed the fish like to
loiter. Tadd unfurled a majestic cast, and no sooner had the lure hit the water
than his rod began twitching violently. Moments later he had reeled in a
three-pound papio, its body a striking, translucent blue.
more excited about having his prediction confirmed than the fish itself: "I
told you, he's the luckiest guy in the world!"
Tadd lazily made
another half-dozen casts. When a papio grows up--say, above 10 pounds--the
locals call it a ulua. It has razor-sharp rails on its fins, which it uses to
stun its prey. Off in the distance the water exploded around Tadd's lure. A
ulua had tried to smack it with its fin before biting down on the hook.
Tadd, his rod bent
nearly in half, sweat already beginning to pour off his forehead, still
managed some perfect teenaged snarkiness: "Hello, I know that. I'm the one
holding the rod!"
Tadd won his first
junior judo national championship at age eight. He has the balance and grace of
a ballet dancer, combined with the powerful lower body of a fullback. He danced
around the boat, fighting the fish and fending off the excited commentary of
his dad. After a heroic battle that lasted at least 10 minutes, he reeled
in a 17-pound ulua that was so big it wouldn't fit in the ice chest. Derrick
took a knife and hacked the ulua's gills so it would bleed out, ensuring that
the next day's homemade sashimi would have white meat, not pink. Tadd didn't
hide his disgust: "Ewww, that's gross."
Later Derrick and
Tadd waded into waist-deep water to hunt octopuses with spears, poking into the
holes where the mysterious creatures like to hide. They were having a ball, but
with a sigh Derrick cut short the trip. "We have to get to the course or
Moms is going to be pissed."
always comes first," said Tadd, who in his short professional career has
already discovered that in golf it is not quite so easy to land the big
In July, when
Fujikawa turned pro, the move occasioned plenty of head-scratching, and some
undisguised scorn. The day Tadd made his announcement, John Francis, whose son
Phillip is a top amateur now enrolled at UCLA, told SI, "I would personally
be embarrassed for my son to do that."
is a teenager from Hawaii it is irresistible to draw comparisons with Michelle
Wie, who has become a $10 million-a-year cautionary tale. Like Wie,
Fujikawa burst onto the scene at the Sony Open in Hawaii. In his case it was
last January, when he became the youngest player in a half century to make the
cut at a PGA Tour event. It wasn't only the achievement that resonated but also
Fujikawa's panache. On his 36th hole he made a spectacular eagle, chasing the
ball into the hole with a roundhouse fist-pump that was pure exuberance. The
next day he shot a 66 to surge into a tie for eighth, and Hawaii fairly shook.
Fujikawa ran out of magic on Sunday, shooting 72, but still finished a very
creditable 20th. (He would have collected $54,228.57 had he not been an
amateur.) What made Fujikawa impossible not to root for was the figure he cut
on the course: Born more than three months premature and weighing less than two
pounds, he has topped out at 5' 1" and 135.