A qualifier for the boys golf state tournament in four straight years, it’s unquestioned what Marc Kaneko-Fujii brings to the course every time he tees off.
But while he’s capable of pulling off jaw-dropping shots with a golf club, it wasn’t his ability to chip or putt that set him apart in a season that earned him the Sun’s Boys Golfer of the Year honors.
A supportive teammate who was always eager to lend a helping hand, Kaneko-Fujii helped push his teammates to reach the state tournament as a team for the second straight season.
“When we were in the regional tournament trying to move on to states, we had a tie,” Port Charlotte golf coach Rodney Taylor said. “We were tied with Estero so we had to play as a team, our four against their four. They started with the No. 1’s against each other. Estero’s guy put it right down the middle and Marc hit his out of bounds into the houses.
“He turned around to his teammates and said, ‘You guys got this. I know you do. I have all the confidence in the world in you.’ And the team turned around and looked at him and said, ‘Yes, Marc, we’ve got you.’ And our No. 2 through No. 4 guys went and won the playoff. That’s what he brought to our team.”
A leader for the Port Charlotte boys golf team since he was a freshman, Kaneko-Fujii has won three district championships, three county championships and has placed top 10 individually in the state tournament — establishing himself as one of the best and most consistent high school golfers in southwest Florida.
The path to become the golfer he is today began over 10 years ago when his mother, Yuko, enrolled him and his older siblings in local youth golf camps. Following in the footsteps of his two brothers, Yuki and Yui, and sister, Yumi, Marc steadily worked his way into becoming the next Fujii to dominate Charlotte County golf.
“I never felt any pressure because, and this sounds awful, but I was just naturally good at the game,” he said. “So I didn’t have to worry too much. If I was happy, that’s all it took to play well. I didn’t need to go to the range for hours on end. I just needed to enjoy the moment, and I’d do pretty well.”
While Kaneko-Fujii realized early on in life that he had a gift for the game, it took him a little longer to figure out what motivated him in the sport.
Though he found success playing by himself — he competed in 71 junior golf tournaments throughout high school — it was the camaraderie of playing with a team that truly brought out the best in him.
“He’s been around the golf course his whole life and he’s been a leader for us,” Taylor said. “He leads in his own way. He’ll see someone practicing on the range and he’ll take it upon himself to walk over and say, ‘You know what? That happened to me too. Try this.’”
Even though Kaneko-Fujii didn’t have his best statistical season in 2019, he continued his dominance of the area, becoming a district medalist and shooting an 80 in regionals to keep his team alive for a shot at a playoff.
He doesn’t plan on pursuing the sport at Florida Atlantic University, where he plans on studying to go into the field of physical therapy.
Knowing this would be his final season of competitive golf made it all the more easier to relax and simply enjoy the year with his teammates. It also didn’t hurt that the Pirates accomplished their team goal of reaching the state tournament.
“This was actually my worst statistical season, but I think it turned out great,” he said. “This season was the most fun that I’ve ever had. I didn’t do amazing in the big tournaments, but I had a blast.
“States was by far the best part of the season. It was our goal to make it there as a team. That’s what we were aiming for. Once we did, we didn’t worry too much about how we played. We just embraced the moment and that we made it.”