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Another Hawaii teen struggles to make a cut

Tadd Fujikawa
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Small in size, Tadd Fujikawa is big on talent.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — 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' 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."

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