SALT LAKE CITY — In the spring of 1997, when he was 7 years old, Tony Finau sat on the couch in his family’s apartment in Rose Park on the west side of Salt Lake City transfixed by what he was seeing on TV: a 21-year-old black kid named Tiger Woods dismantling the field at the Masters.

He had never watched a golf tournament before, but this one had him mesmerized. “I saw this kid who was the same color as me,” remembers Finau. “I saw him fist pumping, I saw him wearing the green jacket; he made the game look so cool. I looked at it and I’m like, man, maybe I can do that someday, maybe I can play in the Masters.”

Curtis Compton, AP

Tiger Woods pumps his fist en route to winning the Masters in 1997. Tony Finau watched Woods win that event from his apartment in Rose Park, saying later that Woods’ memorable victory helped inspire him to become a professional golfer.

Fortunately, no one was there to tell him he should have his head examined.

There were just so many reasons why not.

On any number of levels it didn’t add up: Culturally — Tongans don’t play golf, they play football. Socially — the other kids in Rose Park: you’re doing what?! And especially financially — Kelepi Finau made $35,000 as a baggage handler at the airport, which had to support a family of nine. There wasn’t enough left over for a bucket of balls on the driving range, forget about greens fees.

There was also the problem that the person who was going to teach Tony how to play golf did not play golf.

The boy really only had two things going for him. One, his brother Gipper, 11 months younger, had already taken up the game and was way better than Tony; and two, his dad Kelepi, the aforementioned golf coach, didn’t believe in just urging his boys to dream, he believed in urging them to dream outrageously.

Wait, make that three things. Three, Tony’s mother. It was Ravena Finau who told her husband she wanted him to come up with something her Irish twins could do together that would keep them occupied and out of trouble in a place that had its share of gangs and temptations.

Thus instructed, Kelepi thought, well, all right, and got to work, figuring out how to do golf on the extreme …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

      

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From Rose Park to Augusta: Tony Finau’s unlikely journey to golf’s grandest stage

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