'Humble beginnings' to Ryder Cup a dream for Finau

Tony Finau (AP)
Tony Finau (AP)

Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines - Former high school basketball standout Tony Finau said on Thursday he was "extremely proud" of his unusual journey to the US Ryder Cup team after overcoming "very humble beginnings".

The 29-year-old Finau was chosen as the final captain's pick by American skipper Jim Furyk following a season in which he was the only player to record three top-10 finishes at the four majors.

"I'm extremely proud of where I am. Just having a spot on this team, it has been a dream of mine since I started playing the game at eight years old," Finau told reporters on Thursday.

"You know, basically very humble beginnings. My parents sacrificed a lot for me to be in this position."

He is the first PGA Tour player of Tongan and Samoan heritage, and is the cousin of Chicago Bulls forward Jabari Parker - taken second overall in the 2014 NBA draft.

The 6ft, 4in (1.93m) Finau was also a talented basketball player in his younger years, but turned down scholarship offers from universities in his home state of Utah to concentrate on golf.

"Golf is an extremely expensive sport, and growing up, I didn't come from a lot, but my parents sacrificed a lot for me to compete, and my goals were their goals," he said.

"My family is a big part of why I'm here, and they have given up a lot. It's cool to look back and reflect on where I've come from, and now, part of this Ryder Cup and this team, is pretty special for me and my family."

However, his season was almost derailed by a fluke injury in April at the Masters Par-3 Contest, where he dislocated his ankle celebrating a hole-in-one.

Remarkably, Finau popped it back into place on the spot and then altered his swing dramatically to enable himself to compete at Augusta National, finishing in a tie for 10th place.

He came fifth at the US Open at Shinnecock Hills and shared ninth place at the British Open. He also tied a PGA Championship record with 10 birdies in a second round played alongside Furyk.

"He's just so excited to represent his country and be a part of this team, and you could hear it in the voice over the phone," said Furyk, who confirmed Finau's spot after he secured a third top-10 finish in a row in the FedEx Cup playoffs at the rain-delayed BMW Championship.

"For a first-time player at the Ryder Cup, he brings a lot to the team room just with an infectious personality. I can't imagine anyone saying a bad word about Tony Finau."

The big-hitting Finau turned professional aged 17 but didn't earn his PGA Tour card until 2015, coming through qualifying school at the sixth attempt.

"When I finally got through, I knew the opportunities and the window for getting to the PGA Tour and competing at a high level was finally available to me," said Finau.

"Those six years were tough. Mini-tour life isn't a glamorous life, professional golf life. If you're not on the PGA Tour, it is very tough financially.

"I was married, and my wife and I had our oldest son already. So those were some tough times."

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