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Hawaii phenom Fujikawa to turn pro

Tadd Fujikawa
Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/
Tadd Fujikawa, 16, plans to make his pro debut in three weeks at the Reno-Tahoe Open.

HONOLULU (AP) — Another teenager from Hawaii is turning pro.

Tadd Fujikawa, the 16-year-old kid who became the youngest player in more than 50 years to make the cut on the PGA Tour, said Thursday he was giving up his amateur status and would make his pro debut in three weeks at the Reno-Tahoe Open.

"I'm really ready for this,'' he said. "It's something that I want to do.''

Fujikawa made his announcement at a news conference at the Waialae Country Club, where in January the 5-foot-1 Fujikawa sent the gallery into a frenzy with an eagle on the 18th hole for a 66 that allowed him to make the cut at the Sony Open.

He stole the attention from Michelle Wie, the most popular golfer in Hawaii who turned pro at age 15. Wie, who just graduated high school, has spiraled into a miserable slump and has not broken par on any tour in nearly a year.

Wie's splashy news conference two years ago was very different from Fujikawa's low-key announcement, which had more friends and family members in attendance than media. Wie had signed multimillion deals with Nike and Sony. Fujikawa is still working on his first contract.

Fujikawa quickly shot down any comparisons between the teens.

"You can't really compare yourself with anyone else,'' he said. "You're two different people. You're playing two different stages. She's on the LPGA. I'm the PGA. ... It's just totally different.''

Fujikawa, who just finished his sophomore year at Moanalua High School, said he still plans to finish high school and attend college.

He first drew attention in 2006 as a 15 year old player when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, becoming the youngest to participate in an Open. But it was his experience at the Sony that pushed him to turn pro.

Fujikawa shot consecutive rounds of 66 to get his name on the first page of the leaderboard, and finished with a 72 to tie for 20th - a shot better than John Daly, two better than Vijay Singh.

"It showed me I can compete with the best players in the world and I can handle myself in front of the cameras. But sometimes I get a little nervous,'' he said.

A month after the Sony, Fujikawa became the youngest winner of the Hawaii Pearl Open, beating a field packed with pros from Japan. Because of his amateur status, the youngster gave up more than $66,000 in earnings in the two events.

Finances weren't really a factor in this decision.

"I'm not in it for the money at all. I just want to play with the best players in the world,'' he said.

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