Tony Finau is playing for $10 million. Daniel Summerhays and Zac Blair would love to earn about $30,000.
The historic convergence of three Utah natives as PGA Tour members could end this weekend, just as Finau’s career trajectory keeps rising. He’s playing in the Tour Championship in advance of next week’s Ryder Cup matches in Paris, while Summerhays and Blair need high finishes in the Web.com Tour Championship to keep their PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season that starts next month.
“It’s been a special year for me, to say the least,” Finau said last week, when he hosted the Tony Finau Foundation’s fourth annual pro-am at Alpine Country Club. “I don’t know how many times I’ll have this opportunity in my career — hopefully, a lot more.”
Finau ranks No. 3 in this season’s FedEx Cup standings. If he wins the Tour Championship in Atlanta, he’s guaranteed the No. 1 spot and the accompanying $10 million bonus. Even a No. 5 final ranking is worth an extra $1 million.
The West High School graduate already has earned $5.4 million in 2017-18 and is assured of more money this weekend in the 30-player field at East Lake Golf Club. Finau has finished in the top 10 in each of the first three Playoff events this year; he tied for seventh in Atlanta last September. His ambitions remain high.
“I played incredible golf all season,” he said, “and it would definitely be a timely win.”
Summerhays and Blair need big-time performances of their own this week, with more at stake from a career perspective and more daunting odds against them. Playing in the last of four events in the Web.com Tour Finals, they need to move into the top 25 in the series standings to retain PGA Tour membership. Summerhays, from Davis High, is No. 38. Fremont High’s Blair is No. 54.
They're playing in this series for the second straight season, having finished between Nos. 126 and 200 in the FedEx Cup standings. The difference this year is they placed below No. 150, losing their conditional status on the PGA Tour.
Summerhays endured a long slump this summer, but revived hope for his future with a tie for 13th place Sunday in Boise. He made a 36-hole cut for only the second time since early May on either tour. Summerhays had a chance to finish higher, but made three bogeys on the back nine before rallying with two birdies to complete his fourth straight 68. To keep his card, he would have to finish in about the top 15 this weekend in Atlantic Beach, Fla.
Blair likely must place seventh or higher, after having made two cuts in the Web.com Tour Finals with his best finish being a tie for 33rd. As a pro rookie in 2014, Blair missed the cut in the first three Finals events, then finished second in the last tournament and advanced to the PGA Tour.
If they don’t make the top 25 in the series and return to the PGA Tour, Summerhays and Blair would have access to the Web.com Tour in 2019. Scott Pinckney, another Utah Junior Golf Association alumnus, stands 24th after tying for eighth place in Boise.
Junior Ryder Cup
Following the Tour Championship, Finau will fly to Paris. Another Utah golfer already will be there.
Davis High School senior Cole Ponich will play for the U.S. team in the Junior Ryder Cup, scheduled Monday and Tuesday at Disneyland Paris.
Ponich, who's committed to BYU, is among six boys on the American team, joining six girls. Finau, who competed in 2004 and '06, is the only other Utahn to have played in the Junior Ryder Cup.
“There's no opportunity like this in junior golf, and most kids get only one chance of playing in it,” said Ponich, a captain's pick.
His breakthrough aligned with Finau’s Ryder Cup selection, and Ponich will stay in Paris all week to watch Finau play. Ponich became aware of his Junior Ryder Cup potential only last September, when he won the Bobby Chapman Invitational in South Carolina and moved up in the American Junior Golf Association rankings.
Finau’s teams lost to Europe in ’04 and ’06, but the Americans have won all five competitions since then. Soon after returning from Paris, Ponich will play for Davis in the Class 6A state tournament.
U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur
Salt Lake City’s Kelsey Chugg will defend her title in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, beginning Saturday in St. Louis. Chugg won in Houston in November, after the tournament was postponed and moved from Florida due to weather issues.
The tournament will conclude a year when Chugg received several nice playing opportunities as a United States Golf Association champion, including berths in the U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. Women’s Amateur, plus a spot in an exhibition during the U.S. Open.
The Mid-Amateur is for golfers 25 and older. Salt Lake’s City’s Annette Gaiotti, 65, is the oldest player in the field.