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SALT LAKE CITY — Tony Finau knows the struggle of reaching the pinnacle of the golfing world — especially without all the resources.
“That’s something you should write a book about: 'How to golf in your garage,'” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert joked during the Web.com Tour’s Utah Championship media event on Monday at the Governor’s Mansion.
Finau’s story from learning to play by honing his short game on the free parts of the course and firing away shots into a net, and a mattress, in his family’s garage has been well-chronicled. But to him, that wasn’t even the hardest part about reaching the PGA Tour.
Before the top 10 finishes at majors, before the Ryder Cup, before playing in the final group with Tiger Woods in April at the Masters Tournament, Finau spent seven years playing mini-tour golf, struggling to land on the major tour.
“Trying to make money, trying to play; I get married at the time and had children. It was a tough road to take,” Finau said.
He’s now trying to make that road easier for someone else. On Monday, Finau announced that Patrick Fishburn, a former Fremont High School and BYU golfer, will be the first to receive financial support from the Tony Finau Foundation.
Fishburn is currently playing on the Mackenzie Tour, the PGA’s Canadian tour, and finished third on Monday at the Bayview Place DCBank Open.
“I feel like he has the potential to play at the highest level,” Finau said. “He has shown signs of greatness in his game and I think he just needs an opportunity, and that’s exactly what we are trying to do: give the best player in Utah the opportunity to play at the highest level.”
Fishburn is sixth in the Mackenzie Tour standings after two events. The tour’s top five finishers will advance to the Web.com Tour in 2020.
Finau said he hopes to sponsor Fishburn for “years to come,” right up until Fishburn joins Finau on the PGA circuit.
“I know what it’s like to be in that position, to where you feel like: Am I good enough? Am I not?” Finau said. “But you don’t have the resources to play as much as you want, you don’t have the funds to do as much as you should be doing to take your game to the next level.
“It’s very rewarding for me because I have been in that position, and to now lend a helping hand for another who is in that position is really cool for me.”
Part of the mentorship program is to help Utah golfers reach new heights. Finau is already among the most successful golfers from the state — he is the only Utahn to play in the Ryder Cup and has threatened to win just about every major over the last two seasons. He's raising the profile of Utah golf with his play alone, but he doesn't want it to end there.
Finau’s willingness to help fund someone else’s path to the PGA Tour is what makes him, well, Finau.
“I get asked all the time, ‘What’s the best part about what you do and your job?’” Finau said. “I think it’s really cool to be a role model to a younger generation kids, and I take that very seriously.
"It’s more of responsibility to me as younger generations look up to me not only as a player, but as a person. Hopefully, they admire what I do on the golf course, off the course, and maybe pattern what they do off some of the things I do.”