Ryoto Furuya, who moved from Tokyo when he was 12, plays for Saddlebrook Academy. CLIFF GILL
BY MIKE CAMUNAS Tribune correspondent
Published: August 2, 2013
WESLEY CHAPEL - A world away from home, Ryoto Furuya is working every day.
Four hours a day, all week long, the Japan-born Saddlebrook sophomore golfer is chasing his dream: to play golf professionally.
He's well on his way.
"He's a student of the game," Saddlebrook boys golf coach Mark Hirschey said. "He really handles golf as a business and as a professional. He treats it like a job, just constantly working on it."
Furuya came to Florida when he was 12, leaving behind his family in Tokyo and boarding at Saddlebrook Academy to become the next premiere golfer. Furuya has aspirations of hoisting a trophy on a Sunday, but first, there's college golf and education.
Furuya is also doing well on the junior and high school golf fronts.
"He's really mature for his golfing age," Hirschey said. "He makes good decisions, especially off the tee, and that has made him very solid from tee to green."
On July 9-11, Furuya won the 13-15 year old age group of the 59th Florida State Boys' Junior Championship at Sara Bay Country Club and Bradenton Country Club. Furuya shot a three-day even par 213 thanks to birdies on 2, 7 and 9, but a bogey put him at two-under at the turn of his final round.
"I kept looking at my partners that day, thinking I had a good lead, but I just tried to hang in there," Furuya said.
Furuya would bogey 13 and 16, but saved par on 17 and 18 to clinch the title. All this after helping lead the Saddlebrook boys golf team to a sixth-place finish at the Class 1A state tournament by shooting a team-best 159.
"Hard work always pays off, but I've been having a great summer," Furuya said. "It's a grind, but you've got to do it every day to be any good."
Hirschey believes Furuya will be the next top player out of Saddlebrook because his mental game is already finely tuned.
"You don't usually see that out of 15-year-olds," Hirschey said. "He leads by example, but he has a chance with his abilities and how focused he can be mentally."
Furuya, who works with Wesley Chapel-based golf coach Chad Phillips, does want to play college golf, but also get a college degree. While he has no offers, Furuya would like to play at Alabama, adding "education is my No. 1 priority. If I can golf after a couple of years in college, maybe, but for now, I just want to get my education."
Furuya stays grounded thanks to a solid support system. He sees his family a couple times a year, including his father spending the summer with him as he plays junior golf, but he also Skypes with his family everyday.
But Furuya works every day to pursue his dream.
"I work the most on my short game because I always thought that was important, but I work on everything else, too," Furuya said. "You have to balance everything out, from all aspects of golf and school, too. It's tough, but it's worth it, too."
Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.