Tony Finau College: What School Did Golfer Attend?

Getty Tony Finau of the United States reacts on the 18th green during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

Tony Finau entered the final day at the 2019 Masters in a tie for second place alongside an all-time great in Tiger Woods. He shot an 8-under par 64 on Saturday to surge near the top of the leaderboard and in position for his first major championship, let alone his first runner-up finish at one.

After entering the professional ranks in 2007 with the Tour, and soon after the PGA, the 29-year old from Salt Lake City has hit a stride the last 2 seasons. In addition to his success this weekend at Augusta National, he notched 3 top-10 placements at majors last year, including a 5th place showing at the U.S. Open.

Finau’s path is different from may of his peers today. While the likes of Woods and Brooks Koepka went the college route at Stanford and Florida State, respectively, Finau went straight to the pros out of West High School.

The school is Salt Lake’s oldest high school as it was founded in 1890. The downtown school didn’t even field a golf team until Tony showed up. He and his younger brother Gipper made an immediate impact, according to the Deseret News.

So Tony went to a high school that didn’t even have a golf team. A year later, Gipper followed. A year after that, with a coach who didn’t play golf (familiar ground for the Finaus), West High, Salt Lake City’s oldest high school, won its first state golf championship in 114 years.

Tony had a chance to play collegiately at either UNLV or BYU after his time with the West High Panthers. However, it wasn’t for golf, but rather for basketball. According to his PGA Tour profile, he was the center on the Panthers basketball team.

Helped team reach the state tournament his junior and senior seasons. Averaged 11 rebounds per game as a senior. Chose to not pursue basketball and concentrated on golf instead despite college basketball scholarship offers.

Also, his first sport was apparently fire-knife dancing, which is a Samoan ritual. He comes from Tongan heritage.

He turned pro in 2007 at age 17 to compete for the $2 million first prize at the Ultimate Game, an individual match-play competition held in Las Vegas.

According to ESPN, “a private sponsor offered to provide the $50,000 initiation fee for him and Gipper to compete in the event.” These sorts of benefits would be considered NCAA violations for illegal benefits to a student-athlete, but it’s not clear if Tony and his family knew that when accepting the money.

Tony made the 12-man finals, paid back the sponsor and took home $100,000 to launch his career on the and PGA circuits.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would have turned pro at 17,” Tony said to ESPN. “At the time, I had been playing golf for only nine years.”

Over a decade later, he has a real chance at donning the green jacket, as he currently is nipping at the heels of Italy’s Francesco Molinari.