A Pro Before Prom

Saturday January 12th, 2008
Tadd Fujikawa missed the cut by five shots.
Eric Risberg/AP

HONOLULU — You know the dream. You're back in high school. You haven't studied for the final. You're going to fail. I thought about that dream Friday afternoon while following 17-year-old Tadd Fujikawa around the back nine at the Sony Open.

Fujikawa, if you haven't heard, is a tournament pro who moonlights as a junior at Honolulu's Moanalua High School.

That's a big change from a year ago, when Fujikawa was an amateur moonlighting as a sophomore. Last year, the 5-1, 130-pound schoolboy shot a second-round 66 on his way to a 20th-place finish in the Sony Open. He was the youngest player in a half-century to survive the cut at a PGA Tour event and the first Moanalua student to float the Vijay-Singh-ate-my-homework excuse.

Things didn't go quite so well for young Tadd this time around; he shot 74-70-144 at Waialae County Club and missed the cut by roughly four strokes. (See the AP story for an explanation of "roughly.")

No big deal. Fujikawa played well, laughed a lot, and hit a few shots that thrilled a gallery filled with friends and family.

But what happens twenty years from now, when Fujikawa is the third-round leader at the Masters and he's trying to get a good night's sleep? I mean, if you and I wake up in a flop of sweat despite our advanced degrees from Harvard and Cal Tech, how bad is it going to be for a guy who blew off whole weeks of English, Japanese, marine science and piano to perfect his sand game?

Kevin Na is another example. Na went low again at Waialae and finished Friday in second-place at 9-under, two strokes behind second-round leader K.J. Choi. Na is 23, and he's already cashed several million dollars worth of Tour checks. But his high school guidance counselor remembers him as "that Korean kid who dropped out before his senior year — to join the circus or something."

Ferris Buehler's Day Off? How about Kevin Na's Missed Graduation?

I'm not saying that Fujikawa and Na were wrong to turn pro before they got a prom date. As I tell my grandkids, "If a man in a Mercedes offers you a million dollars to host a golf clinic for retired CEOs in cashmere sweaters ...."

Actually, that's not what I tell the grandkids. That's one of my dreams.

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