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Golf: Utah’s Tony Finau happy to return home on Tour

Tony Finau competes in The Ultimate Game, a golf tournament with a $2 million first prize at Wynn Las Vegas hotel & casino in Las Vegas on June 8, 2007. (Isaac Brekken for the Salt Lake Tribune)

By Kurt Kragthorpe

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jul 07 2014 03:43PM
Updated Jul 7, 2014 11:15PM

Tony Finau struggled to speak the language in South America and let Hurricane Arthur play through last weekend in Canada.

He’s happy to be home this week. "I’ve been looking forward to it all year, I really have," Finau said from Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he tied for 16th place and fellow Utahn Zac Blair tied for seventh in his first http://http://http://http:// Tour start of the season. The weather-interrupted event was completed with 36 holes on Sunday.

Finau is thriving as a rookie on the http://http://http://http:// Tour, which comes to Willow Creek Country Club in Sandy for the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank, beginning Thursday. After a slow start in the Latin American phase of the schedule, the Lehi resident has made 10 consecutive cuts and posted seven top-25 finishes.

He ranks 22nd on the money list with $105,125 and hopes to maintain that position. After the next seven tournaments, 25 golfers will earn PGA Tour cards for 2014-15. The top 75 players will compete in the four-event http://http://http://http:// Tour finals, determining 25 more cards and the order for access to PGA Tour events for all the graduates. The wraparound schedule means Finau could be playing PGA Tour events in October.

That’s been Finau’s target in the seven years since he turned pro at age 17, just prior to graduating from West High School. That goal became realistic in December, when he advanced through the qualifying tournament for the http://http://http://http:// Tour, which offers the primary avenue to the PGA Tour.

"It’s been a grind just to get to this tour," Finau said. "It’s been a crazy process. The word that comes to mind is perseverance. … I never doubted myself. I always knew I had the potential and the game."

Finau also dealt with the death of his mother, Ravena, in an auto accident in December 2011. He kept pursuing pro golf through various mini-tours, while finding other places to play such as the Provo Open. Finally, he broke through last December, earning http://http://http://http:// Tour membership (his brother, Gipper, was eliminated in a pre-qualifying stage).

His tie for third place meant he could plan a full http://http://http://http:// Tour schedule, but the travel is demanding. He struggled in South America and Panama, partly because communicating with local caddies was difficult — not so much in terms of strategy, but just in conversation to help him relax. In North America, Finau has teamed with Marcus Burbank, an assistant pro at The Ranches in Eagle Mountain.

They’ve succeeded, with Finau playing consistently. He threatened to win a recent event in Indiana, leading by one stroke with four holes to play, only to make three bogeys and tie for fourth.

"I thought I did a pretty good job of controlling my emotions," Finau said. "You can’t beat that experience."

Twitter: @tribkurt

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