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Storylines From The 2006 U.S. Open (Part 2)
NEW JERSEY — One of the great stories of the Open this year revolves around Madalitso Muthiya of Zambia and 15 year old Tadd Fujikawa of Hawaii, the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Open since WWII.
Madalitso began playing golf in 1992 as a nine year old taking clubs from his father Peter. After breaking a window, His father discovered his interest in the game and taught him the game.
To hear him tell his story, he says “I was first 15 years old, and I guess I was winning tournaments in Zambia, and the president of Zambia read about me in the newspapers, the former president of Zambia. So he invited me to the State House to meet him, and he was asking me what he could do for me. So I told him what my plans were.”
“I was with my father, told him what I wanted to do, and that was to play college golf. So I wanted to be on the PGA TOUR. He mentioned that he had a friend in America who could help me out to get a scholarship or to be here in the United States to pursue my golfing career.”
“His name is Jaime Roth. He was working for the U.S. government. He was president of the office of the USTR and was doing trade work with Zambia for the United States. So I ended up meeting him at one of the hotels in Zambia with my father, and from then on my dad and him were corresponding over the phone lines and getting information.”
“So yeah, he arranged a tournament for me to play in Florida. It was the Patty Berg Junior Masters, which I ended up winning, and that’s where the University of New Mexico golf coach saw me there and recruited me.”
“As for qualifying, “I actually had to go pre-qualify for the sectional. I had to go through the local qualifying. I shot 63 to get into the sectional. But I was just playing my own game because I was determined to play good and also to make it here to the U.S. Open because I had always wanted to play a PGA TOUR event.”
“I was happy to play well in the morning, I shot 67. Then in the afternoon I shot 69, so I ended up shooting 10-under par and won by four to get me a spot here.” When asked about his accomplishment of successfully making it to the Open, he reflected, and then said “I haven’t fully realized it because I’m trying to compete at the same time. That’s why I’m here. I’m trying to play well, at the same time not get consumed by what’s going on around me.”
“Probably after the tournament I’ll probably realize what a great accomplishment this probably is.”
While he says he is looking forward to playing well, I’ll add he is also looking to the improbable and winning and what an accomplishment that will be.
When you think of Hawaii and golf, the name that comes to mind in Michelle Wie who as a 13 year old said after winning the 2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, “I guess if you grow up normal, you’ll only be normal and i don’t want to be normal. I want to be something else.”
Well, she made a valiant effort at Canoe Brook, but fell short. However, at 16 she had time to realize her dream. One person who is realizing his dream is Tadd Fujikawa ; he of Japanese heritage who stands at 5 feet 1 inch, weighs a whooping 135 pounds but can drive the ball 285 yards.
As for his route to the Open, he said “In the local qualifying, they took three spots. Michelle qualified first and then another professional from Hawaii qualified second, and I was tied for third with two other people. We had a three-hole playoff, and then on the third playoff hole, I made a 65-foot birdie putt to win.”
“That was kind of fun, I guess. … In Sectional I shot 71 in the first round, 1-under, and I was one shot back of the leader after the first round. I kind of felt like I had to shoot about 4-under to win.”
“I just tried to attack, and when I had the chance, to go for birdie, and when I didn’t, just make par. I really tried to keep myself in the game. And luckily I pulled through, and I’m here now at the U.S. Open.” In discussing his game, he said, “I think right now the strength of my game is probably driving the ball. I’m driving the ball great. I’m not the longest of hitters, but yesterday I played and I think I only missed one fairway. I think that’s definitely the strength of my game right now.”
He added “I think my goal in the competition is certainly to make the cut. I definitely want to win, but that’s kind of unrealistic, so I think making the cut would be really reasonable.” If you are looking for a truly great storyline, perhaps Tadd or Madalitso can be the one. Let’s hope.