Tony Finau made history as the first golfer with Tongan and Samoan nationality to hold a PGA Tour card. It is a distinction Tony embraces.
“I guess there is a little bit of pride that goes with being the first [Tongan-Samoan] to hold a PGA Tour card,” Tony told ESPN.
Tony is originally from Lehi, Utah. According to the PGA Tour, Tony’s first sport was fire-knife dancing, a Tongan and Samoan ritual.
The golfer overcame long odds to become one of the top golfers in the world. He learned to play golf by hitting golf balls against a mattress in a garage. Since his family could not afford to use a driving range Tony’s father, Kelepi, came up with a makeshift setup for his son to learn the game.
“I love being Polynesian and take a lot of pride in being Polynesian,” Tony noted to the Strait Times. “There is nobody in our Polynesian culture that has ever played this game. So I don’t really have anyone to look up to as far as being Polynesian and doing something so different from what we are used to. I feel like its kind of an ‘all odds against me’ story. I shouldn’t be here in this position.”
Tony Finau Looked Up to Tiger Woods
Tony looked up to Tiger Woods as a golfer who looked similar to him. Now, Tony is competing against Tiger for a green jacket at the 2019 Masters.
“I saw this kid who was the same color as me,” Tony told the Deseret News. “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.”
Tony’s grandparents instilled a sense of pride in his father about where he came from. When Kelepi’s family moved to Los Angeles, they did not want him to lose pride in their home country.
“Before we came here, my mother and father sat us down in Tonga and said look, this country is the greatest country in the world, it will offer you things others won’t, it will recognize your talent, it will recognize your hard work, but if we go there and you kids don’t have gratitude in your hearts for stepping foot in that country, I don’t think any of you will be successful,” Kelepi explained to the Deseret News.
Tony Comes From a Big Family With 6 Siblings
Tony and his wife, Alayna Finau, have four children: Jraice, Leilene, Tony and Sage. Tony comes from a large family of six siblings. Tony’s brother, Gipper, also played golf and grew up as the more highly-ranked prospect. Gipper struggled to find his footing as his career advanced.
“I grew up, that’s the best way to put it,” Gipper told Deseret News. “I had so much talent, but I was one of those that needed to learn. Life taught me a lot of good lessons throughout the years.”