Pro golfer Furyk is at home on Maui
|||Funk seeks 'Aloha' slam|
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ann Miller
Jim Furyk grew up in Pennsylvania and lives in Florida. Still, he is a threat to become known as "Uncle Jim" in the islands.
Since he won the 1995 Lincoln Mercury Kapalua International in his first visit to Hawai'i, Furyk's immense golf success here has been dwarfed only by his love for a place far from home yet close to his heart. The warmth has been reciprocated by people here who have come to appreciate his honesty, grace and basic kindness.
Furyk tees off at 11:35 a.m. today in the first round of the Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua's Plantation Course. To his left, between the third and 18th holes, will be the home he bought in 1999.
Two years later, he won the Mercedes in his backyard. "I love Maui," Furyk said. "Ever since I won here in '95, it's been my favorite spot in the entire world."
Two years after that, he won the U.S. Open (he has been second the past two years). He is back to start his 15th year on the PGA Tour, and spend time at his second home with family, as the world's third-ranked golfer — after Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who passed on playing in Hawai'i yet again.
In little more than a decade, Furyk has made some $3.5 million in Hawai'i, with additional wins at the 1996 Hawaiian Open and 2003 Grand Slam of Golf.
He also won a place in Hawai'i's collective heart 51 weeks ago when he played the final round of the Sony Open in Hawai'i with 16-year-old Tadd Fujikawa. Furyk was kind and gentle, offering advice and a friendly face during a frantic day. He hung back on the 18th fairway to let Fujikawa enjoy in the applause, then hugged him when his historical week was through.
"All those people just pulling for him, it was a great story," Furyk said. "Sixteen years old with that huge smile. You could tell he was enjoying himself and really having a good time. A lot of times you have a 16-year-old and he ends up trying so hard he forgets to have fun. He really soaked in the moment. That was so much fun.
"I really enjoyed him. I met his mom after and she was very sweet. She thanked me for being so nice to Tadd. I didn't do anything special. You couldn't help but be nice to him. He's a great kid, with a big smile all day and a lot of game."
When Furyk tees off next Thursday at the Sony Open, it will be the 15th consecutive year he has played at Waialae Country Club. He has missed the cut just twice and has five Top 10s, including a fourth last year.
His worst finish at Kapalua was 18th, also last year. He has ended up outside the Top 10 only one other time, but it is not as if he jumps over the fence all the time to practice on the Plantation's vast fairways and greens, which slope down the West Maui mountains into the ocean.
Unfortunately, Furyk rarely finds time to visit his second home aside from January. When he does, it is more for the time to spend with daughter Caleigh (5), son Tanner (4) and wife Tabitha, who was with him in 1995.
"It was pretty young in our relationship and we both had a really good time," Furyk recalls. "Kapalua has the ability ... you can get lost over here and be very private, but you still can go to a town like Lahaina and see a lot of people and dine at nice restaurants and there's a lot to do. You can get into trouble. You get the best of both worlds."
When people ask Furyk what he likes best about Hawai'i, his stock answer is "What's not to like?" With the kids starting school and the tour into its second year of FedEx Cup scheduling, which "compacts" his season, he might finally figure a way to spend more time at the Kapalua house than his parents do.
Or, at age 37 and with $4 million made each of the past three years, making time for Maui might have to wait. For now, he will just enjoy it one week at a time — beginning this week.
Tadd Fujikawa, who played in yesterday's Pro-Am, has signed another endorsement contract. Fujikawa, whose first contract was announced two weeks ago with Aloha Petroleum, will also do appearances and advertise for Kraft Global Foods in Hawai'i. ... The PGA Tour is initiating an Opening Drive ceremony this morning, a little after 10 a.m. on the first tee. It will feature a series of speakers, Four King's Guard Drill Team, a Hawaiian blessing, Jake Shimabukuro performing the national anthem on ukulele and, tentatively, an Air Force flyover. ... Adam Scott, who finished second to Vijay Singh last year, became the fourth player to turn down a Mercedes-Benz invitation this year. The field is now at 31, with Scott, Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods opting out. ... In his last five starts at Kapalua, Singh has two seconds, a fourth, a fifth and last year's victory. The 2007 title was his 30th career win on tour.
Reach Ann Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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