In 2007, a swashbuckling teenager stole hearts in his native Hawaii and across the country. Fist pumping his way to the weekend at the Sony Open, he became the second youngest golfer in history to make the cut at a PGA Tour event. And as heartwarming a story as it was, it’s what Tadd Fujikawa did at 28 with a simple post on Instagram that will have an even greater impact. Following in the steps of those like Michael Sam and Jason Collins, Fujikawa became the first openly gay male professional in his sport.
Home Course: Kapolei Golf Course
When and how did you discover golf?
I was 8 years old. I was doing judo very competitively at the time and I started golf to try and build up my grip strength.
Why do you play?
That answer has changed through the years. Right now I feel like my purpose and passion is to help others. I feel like through golf, I can be an inspiration and give people the opportunity to live and achieve their goals/dreams.
One of the biggest firewalls preventing golf from expanding its reach is due to antiquated cultural associations. What does a modern golf culture and lifestyle look like to you?
I totally agree. I feel like golf has been one of, if not the least progressive sports in the world. I would hope that culturally it would allow people/kids of all backgrounds to learn the game. I believe it is too costly and it also takes too long.
Given the historical lack of inclusion and diversity in golf, did that make it especially difficult for you to come out? What was the reaction like among those close to you and on social media?
I think it did make me hesitant to come out. I didn’t have anyone to look up to or to be inspired by. So I believe that made me take a lot longer to get the courage to do so.
My experience was very positive. Mostly very good responses. And I did receive lots of messages from people saying that I was able to help them. So that really made me feel good.
Who are the people around golf that you find yourself most likely to spend time with?
I don’t really spend time with many golfers. I like to have an outlet from golf so I enjoy doing other things outside of golf or try to avoid talking about golf all the time.
Looking back, how do you think your experience making the cut at the Sony Open and being on TV at 16 impacted you personally?
I think it’s been good in the fact that I’ve had so many amazing opportunities. I’m so thankful for everything that I’ve been able to do and the platform that I’ve been given. But with those positives also came with a lot of self pressure. I wasn’t really able to have a “normal” high school/college life. Went through a tough time with anxiety and depression. But that being said, I’ve learned and grown so much. That in itself makes me feel like all of the struggles have been worth it.
Do you think there will come a time when the big names in golf are willing to publicly take a stance on political/social issues like we see athletes do in other major American sports?
I would hope so! And I think there will be a time when we get there. But I have noticed that a lot of them don’t want to get into social issues at the moment.
I’m sure you’ve played some bucket list courses. What course has been the most memorable?
I’ve played a bunch of good ones. Most notably, Winged Foot and Pebble Beach. But one of the most memorable for me was Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club in Switzerland where they play the Omega European Masters.
We always like to know about memorable pairings. Is there one that stands out?
Not that I can think of.
Tell us about where you are in your golf journey at the moment, how do you feel about the direction you’re headed in?
I’m currently playing mini tours and qualifiers. I have struggled with my game for quite a while. But I feel like I have a lot that I can improve upon and I’m moving in the right direction. I’ve competed at the highest level before so I know I have it in me so that keeps me going.
Alright, let’s fire off some quick questions:
Shirt tucked or untucked?
T shirt untucked. Golf shirt tucked.
Music in the cart or silence?
Favorite show right now?
Don’t have one.
Golf pants or shorts?
*Editor’s Note* Since this interview, Tadd left the golf circuit and is working as a pickle ball teaching professional in St. Simon’s Island, GA.