Professional golfer Tadd Fujikawa came out publicly as gay earlier this week in posts on social media. Fujikawa said he is sharing his true self publicly for the first time because the stories of so many other LGBTQ athletes coming out before him helped him, and he wants to pay it forward.

“I thought that I didn’t need to come out because it doesn’t matter if anyone knows,” Fujikawa wrote. “But I remember how much other’s stories have helped me in my darkest times to have hope. 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 in someone’s life.”

Fujikawa told Outsports that he had not come out to anyone in professional golf until his post yesterday.

“The love and support have been overwhelming,” he said of the 24 hours following his announcement. “I’m so glad that I came out. I can finally be the best version of me.”

Fujikawa told us he knew in his early teens that he was gay, but that he “tried to convince myself to be straight for a long time.”

As an amateur, Fujikawa, from Hawaii, qualified for the 2006 U.S. Open. At the time he was the youngest player in the history of the storied tournament. He went pro the following year and has toured on the PGA Tour Canada, eGolf Professional Tour and Hooters Tour. He is currently playing in mini tours and qualifiers.

We at Outsports aren’t quick to label “firsts” anymore, since it’s so hard to say who was out when and where and how. But Fujikawa is certainly one of the first male pro golfers to come out publicly that we know of, and he’s the first U.S. Open competitor to do so, again, that we are aware of. Another rare male golfer to come out previously is Yale athlete Jake Leffew. Men’s golf has long been a tough nut to crack for the LGBTQ community, and it’s great to see Fujikawa willing to take the leap.

We do know of various out women who have golfed professionally, including Mianne Bagger, Alena Sharp and Rosie Jones.

You can follow Tadd Fujikawa on Instagram @taddy808, or on Twitter @Tadd_Fujikawa.