LOS ANGELES • American former teenage golf prodigy Tadd Fujikawa said that he struggled for years hiding his true identity before publicly revealing on Wednesday that he is gay.
The 27-year-old from Hawaii made the announcement in an Instagram post. He is believed to be the first male touring professional golfer to announce that he is gay.
"I'm gay," he wrote. "Many of you may have already known that. I don't expect everyone to understand or accept me. But please be gracious enough to not push your beliefs on me or anyone in the LGBTQ community.
"My hope is this post will inspire each and every one of you to be more empathetic and loving towards one another."
He rose to prominence by qualifying for the 2006 US Open and at the time was the youngest to play in that Major championship.
He proved that was no fluke when he finished 20th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Hawaii in 2007. At age 16, he was the third-youngest player to make a halfway cut on the PGA Tour.
Only China's 14-year-old Guan Tianlang, who was 58th at the 2013 Masters, and 15-year-old Canadian Bob Panasik, who shared 66th place at the 1957 Canadian Open, made a PGA cut while younger than Fujikawa.
Fujikawa has competed in 17 US PGA events, the most recent of them last year as a Sony Open qualifier. However, he never earned full playing status on the PGA Tour, and now plays primarily in Canada.
He played five pro events last year in Canada and last year captured the Hawaii State Open, his first pro victory in seven years.
"I've been back and forth for a while about opening up about my sexuality," he added.
"I thought that I didn't need to come out because it doesn't matter if anyone knows. But I remember how much other's stories have helped me in my darkest times.
"I spent way too long pretending, hiding, and hating who I was. I was always afraid of what others would think/say. I've struggled with my mental health for many years because of that and it put me in a really bad place.
"Now I'm standing up for myself and the rest of the LGBTQ community in hopes of being an inspiration and making a difference."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE