Utah's Finau grateful for ‘Big Break' challenge, despite loss

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SALT LAKE CITY -- West High grad Tony Finau won the 2006 Utah State Amateur Golf Tournament then turned pro. Earlier this year, he played in the Golf Channel's "Big Break."

The show has been airing on the Golf Channel for the last month, and Tuesday night was the 18-hole finale. There was a spot in a PGA Tour event and an endorsement deal worth some $40,000 on the line.

With a three-stroke lead and three holes to play, Finau got unlucky. His golf ball bounced off the cart path and into the water, causing him to bogey the hole.

All this while his competitor, Mike Perez, was on a birdie run, with four straight birdies to force sudden death on the first extra hole.

On the first extra hole, Finau hit into the bunker; while Perez had a 30-footer for his 5th straight birdie to win it.

Finau is in Hawaii right now getting ready for this weekend's state open, but KSL Sports was able to talk to him by phone Tuesday night:

Rod Zundel: "Tony, that had to be an excruciating final four holes, with your bad luck and Perez catching fire."
Tony Finau: "I thought I had him in the bag, and it shows you what a funny game golf is, really."
Zundel: "Since you've gone through this now, how is this experience going to help you cope with what's to come in your golf future?"
Finau: "Oh, it's huge. You know, just dealing with the pressure and, you know, like I said, I've never had to deal with pressure this big in my career. And so, you know, comin' that close, and falling short is only gonna help me. I'm gonna be a stronger player."
Zundel: "Tony, I know you're disappointed that you didn't win the ‘Big Break' but congratulations on at least getting to the finals and representing Utah like you did, bud."
Finau: "Thanks." E-mail: rzundel@ksl.com

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