Tony Finau is a little different than the rest of the American team, and not just because of he’s of Polynesian descent, and only just escaped playing the islanders’ preferred sport of rugby like his Dad and brother.
He’s also not a former cossetted college boy or country club brat like all the rest of the US team. Finau turned pro when he was 17, never had a scholarship, slogged his way through mini-tours, tried and failed six times to qualify for the Web.com Tour – the second division of American pro golf – before he eventually found his way there.
His parents were of modest means, and made huge sacrifices to help Tony make his way in the game. His Dad would trawl pawn shops for clubs so that he could play, his first set were a second hand throwaway set of irons gifted to him by a pro at a par 3 course.
“There’s a lot of great athletes all over the world, and some of them don’t have the access or opportunity to play the game of golf, and I definitely didn’t growing up. We really didn’t have the funds for me to play, now looking back at how expensive this game is.
“Hopefully my story inspires other kids and other families to know if there’s a will, there’s a way, and this game has a lot to offer. I’ve been extremely blessed to play this game, and I feel like I’m very early in my career and have already been pretty blessed.”
Still only 29, he’s now at the biggest team event in the world of golf, and still can’t quite believe it.
“You look at our guys on our team and the guys on the European team, for me to be in this, it’s just so cool,” he said. “I had six years on mini-tours and it’s not a glamourous life, believe me. It was tough financially, and my wife and I’s eldest son was still young.
“Getting through Qualifying School to reach the PGA Tour, that gave me such a lot of confidence.”
Now he’s here, he sees heroes like Michael Jordan in the locker room – he was a decent basketball player – and his eyes a wide.
“I mean, it’s extremely special to be on a team with Tiger (Woods) and Phil (Mickelson),” he said. “Those guys were my golfing idols growing up and I think pretty much the other ten guys on the team can say the same thing.
“This is a special Ryder Cup for us, and I think this is a very special one for them, as well. To be on a team with Tiger and Phil is a dream come true, and this week I think we have that extra motivation to try and win one for them.”