He is still a cherubic 5-foot-1 in spikes, the menehune with the smile seemingly as wide as he is tall.
At times when you look at the video and photographs of him, Tadd Fujikawa hardly seems to have changed from the precocious 16-year-old Moanalua High student who electrified the Sony Open in Hawaii with a 20th-place finish. Not all that different, either, from the 15-year-old who in 2006 became the youngest person to qualify for the U. S. Open.
But it has been three years and our Tadd — for that is the hold he still has on folks — has, indeed, grown in many ways.
The surest sign of that being his blowout victory in the eGolf Tour Championship over the weekend in Virginia.
Fujikawa shot 25 under and won by nine strokes, carding nothing higher than a 68 over the four days at the Spring Creek Golf Club.
It earned him $25,000 and a subsidized entry to the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School later this year, boosting his take to date this year to $63,484.
But this was a triumph richer than the cash it brought and notable beyond the breakthrough first mainland victory. For somebody who has taken the golf path less traveled — and we don’t mean just the south Atlantic coast-hugging eGolf Tour — it was a priceless validation of faith and considerable reassurance. And a well-earned confidence booster to boot.
Fujikawa could have, and maybe even should have, followed up his Sony exploits by going the college route. For sure, enough people counseled him in that tried and true direction.
But for his reasons, which apparently include finances, he chose to blaze his own trail, however arduous and uncharted.
Of course, Fujikawa, challenged from the first breaths of a three-months-premature birth at 1 pound, 15 ounces, has been pretty much winging it on heart and instinct from the beginning. Why should this be different?
He’s taken what sponsor exemptions he could gather on the PGA and Nationwide tours. But he has also correctly understood he needed much more experience and a regular schedule to improve, which led to the eGolf Tour this year.
While knocking around in the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia, he’s paid his dues and learned his lessons. Some of them the hard way, like in March when he ballooned to a final-round 82 to see a golden shot at what would have been his first mainland title get away.
So what Fujikawa did at Spring Creek was revealing. Not only did he hold onto the lead, he ran away with it. A considerable confidence boost, to be sure.
Gordonsville, Va., where Spring Creek is located, likes to think of itself as at the "crossroads of history." Presumably a reference to its location between the birthplaces of Thomas Jefferson (Monticello) and James Madison (Montpelier).
Who knows, maybe the events of this past weekend will mark something of a crossroads for the growth of Fujikawa, too.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.