HONOLULU(AP) A year ago, as 17-year-old Tadd Fujikawa was making his hometown debut as a pro and trying to repeat his previous Sony Open magic, his father was nowhere to be found.
Derrick Fujikawa was cheering on his son on TV, thousands of miles away in a rehab clinic in Newport Beach, Calif., trying to kick a drug habit he’s had for years. Today, Derrick Fujikawa says he’s been clean for more than a year, turned his life around and vows to never leave his son’s side again.
In his first interview since he was indicted on drug trafficking charges in July 2008, Fujikawa told The Associated Press about his addiction that nearly destroyed his life and brought unwanted attention on his son’s fledgling career.
“I almost lost everything,” Derrick Fujikawa said Wednesday, a day before the opening round of the Sony Open where his son is playing for the third straight year.
He still has a lot to lose. And could end up leaving his son again.
Fujikawa remains free on $50,000 bail and faces decades in prison if convicted on charges of distributing methamphetamine on two occasions in an undercover police sting.
News of the charges made front-page news in Honolulu where Tadd is a fan favorite for his humble, squeeky-clean, gee-whiz personality and compact stature. The 5-foot-1 spark plug weighs about 110 pounds.
Derrick Fujikawa said he felt ashamed and remorseful, but above all, he was worried about how it may cast a shadow on his son.
“I cried,” Derrick Fujikawa said. “It was a sad time for the whole family, not just Tadd.”
Fujikawa wouldn’t comment on his pending criminal case, other than to say how upsetting it was to hear accusations that he sold drugs to fund Tadd’s golf career. Fujikawa said his son and golf had nothing to do with it.
Defense attorney Victor Bakke said he was confident that the matter would be resolved. Fujikawa’s next court appearance is set for Feb. 3.
The 45-year-old Fujikawa had a long battle with crystal methamphetamine, or “ice,” which his wife, son and entire family endured.
“I’m in the process of changing my life. I’ve cleaned up my act,” he said.
He, like his family, is trying to heal.
Derrick Fujikawa said he never used ice in front of his son and hid his habit from other family members. The use got “really bad” and grew to a $200-a-day habit before he voluntarily checked into a Narconon clinic where he spent six months away from his family, and learned how to rethink life, about honesty and how much he has to lose.
Fujikawa said he hopes the mistakes he has made in life will help his son, who turned 18 on Jan. 8, make the right choices.
“I talk about it all the time to Tadd to remind him to stay the straight line and on the right side of the fence,” Derrick Fujikawa said.
His biggest fear was how everything would affect his only child. Someone he remembers watching swing the golf club at age 5 in the backyard.
“I just want to focus on my game,” Tadd Fujikawa said. “It does have an impact on me because it’s my family. It’s tough. Everyone has ups and downs, and you just have to take it as it comes. Every day is different. There are good days and bad days. It just makes me want to work harder.”
Fujikawa, one of the crowd favorites at Sony for the past two years, didn’t earn an invite this year and had to earn a spot through a Monday qualifier at Turtle Bay.
He is making his eighth PGA Tour start as a pro and is still seeking his first tour paycheck. He first grabbed the attention of the golf world 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.
As a 16-year-old high school sophomore, he tied for 20th at the Sony Open – a shot better than John Daly, two better than Vijay Singh – and became the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut on the PGA Tour.
A month after the Sony, Fujikawa became the youngest winner of the Hawaii Pearl Open, beating a field packed with pros from Japan. He turned pro that summer and has struggled ever since all over the globe.
“It’s been a little tough,” he said. “I think I’ve had my ups and downs and downs and downs, but that’s life and that’s golf.”
Tadd Fujikawa said he’s worked harder than ever before and hopes it will pay off in a couple years with a PGA Tour trophy.
“Although, I do want to win now, I think it’s not going to be as important as it is two or three years from now,” he said. “I’m almost there.”
For Derrick Fujikawa, he’s working hard to be a good father and husband. He’s confident his son will succeed because of drive, focus and spirit.
Tadd Fujikawa has come back from personal challenges before. He was born 3 1/2 months early, so small that he weighed only 1 pound, 15 ounces. He made it through a series of operations the first year when doctors gave him a 50-50 chance to live.
“I’m feeling good about my game,” he said. “I think I have the game to do it. I just need to go out there and do the best I can and have fun and be myself.”