As the sixth Hawaii player to qualify for this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii, Tadd Fujikawa was understandably gratified to earn a return to Waialae Country Club.
Then he was reminded that three of those local entrants graduated from Moanalua.
“OK, that’s really cool,” Fujikawa said, flashing that familiar wide smile.
“To see so many guys from Moanalua playing well, we’ve all had our ups and downs and to step forward and make a name for ourselves is really special.”
Fujikawa was a sophomore when he sent shockwaves through Waialae by making the cut in his Sony Open debut in 2007. He made four more appearances over the next five years, a run highlighted by a 62 in the third round in 2009 and a 19th place finish in 2012.
He earned his first Sony berth since then by surviving a six-way playoff for the final two spots in Monday’s qualifier at Hoakalei Country Club in Ewa Beach and joins fellow Moanalua alums John Oda and Brent Grant in the 144-player field.
Grant won the Governor’s Cup amateur qualifier in November, securing the exemption annually reserved for a local amateur. Oda, now a standout at UNLV, fired a 6-under-par 66 to earn medalist honors in the Monday qualifier and secure his second Sony appearance. He highlighted his round with his first hole-in-one in tournament competition on the par-3 seventh hole.
Jared Sawada, a Mililani and University of Hawaii grad, also qualified with a 67 on Monday. Punahou graduate Parker McLachlin and Hawaii Golf Hall of Famer Kevin Hayashi round out the local contingent that will tee it up on Thursday.
Fujikawa’s spent the past few years based in Sea Island, Ga, and has admittedly struggled since his last round at Sony. He carded a 68 on Monday then waited around to see if his score would hold up to get him into a playoff. He survived the first three playoff holes with pars then stuck his tee shot on Hoakalei’s par-3 18th inside of 3 feet to set up a birdie to clinch the last spot in the field.
“It’s tough after struggling for so many years and losing your confidence and losing all your good positive vibes and being back and keep trying and finally seeing some progress, it’s very encouraging for me,” Fujikawa said.
Oda, 20, was 15 when he won the Governor’s Cup qualifier in 2012 to earn a spot in the Sony Open. Since graduating from Moanalua, he’s won four tournament titles at UNLV, including two last fall.
“I haven’t tried (qualifying for Sony) the last two years, really focused my game and used winter as rest to recoup for the college season,” Oda said. “This year, I decided I’m a junior now, I want to play pro and decided this would be a good event to try to get in.”
Oda and Grant were classmates at Moanalua and contributed to the program’s first state championship in 2012 with Oda claiming the individual title. Na Menehune finished second the next two years as Oda won another title in 2014 and Grant placed fourth.
Grant also enjoyed a productive 2016 with a Manoa Cup title followed by wins at the Turtle Bay Open and the Governor’s Cup qualifier.
“I was really stoked when Brent got in because he’s been playing the best in Hawaii,” Oda said. “For him to get in, he definitely deserves it and I’m proud of him.”
Na Menehune have carried on the tradition quite nicely since. Shawn Lu, now a freshman at Oregon State, played in the Sony Open last year and claimed the individual crown at the state tournament to help Moanalua win another team title.
Moanalua nearly sent another representative to Waialae this year with senior Jun Ho Won signing for a 69 on Monday to finish one stroke out of the playoff.
“I’ve always been the ‘young guy,’ ” said Fujikawa, who turned 26 on Sunday. “So now being more of the veteran sort of, it’s really cool seeing the young guys come up and play well. It’s awesome.”