Brothers' dream a reality


POSTED: Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Serendipity and opportunity joined brothers Tony and Gipper Finau, creating quite the foursome yesterday. The teenage golf pros from Salt Lake City signed a three-year agreement to represent Turtle Bay Resort, a place they have long considered their “;dream”; course but never could afford to play during the summers spent visiting relatives in Laie.

“;It was a bit of a surprise, when we were contacted about this,”; Tony, 19, said. “;It's such an honor for us, and it's exciting to be able to do this with my brother.

“;The best thing is we get to reconnect with our culture.”;

The brothers, Nos. 6 and 7 among the 10 Finau children, are of Samoan and Tongan descent. Mother Ravena Mapu Finau played volleyball for Brigham Young-Hawaii and danced at the Polynesian Cultural Center in the mid-1980s.

“;This is home,”; Ravena said. “;My parents met at Church College (now BYUH).

“;Their culture is important to them, it's something we tried to instill in them. We are so blessed they've been given this opportunity.”;

It came with an additional bonus. The brothers received over $20,000 to pay for PGA Qualifying School, courtesy of donations from the golfers who participated in the 5th June Jones Foundation Celebrity Classic earlier this week on the Big Island.

Jones, the former Hawaii football coach, has been following the successes of the Finau brothers the past few years.

“;I knew of them through Kevin (Kaplan, the JJF executive director) and because I'm a golfer,”; Jones said. “;You fall in love with these kids. They're future champions, not just PGA winners, but they'll be Masters contenders, U.S. Open contenders, they have that kind of future ahead of them.

“;They hit the ball long (400 yards consistently off the tee), but they know where it's going. They have great hands, hit the ball in the hole. More importantly, they are grounded, have focus and mental strength. They have what I call the 'It' factor. They are special.”;

Matt Hall, the Turtle Bay Resort golf director, said he first noticed the Finaus at the PGA Junior Championship four years ago.

“;They were the talk of the tournament, driving the par-4 greens,”; Hall said. “;It is just a question of when, not if, they'll make it on the (PGA) Tour.”;

The brothers already have had success in their brief pro careers. The 6-foot-4 Tony won $100,000 when finishing eighth in his debut in 2007, and the 6-1 Gipper — now 18 — became the youngest to make a cut in a Nationwide Tour event at the age of 16; he medaled in the Monday qualifier, shooting a course-record 63.

A few months ago, the two were watching television, as friend Michelle Wie competed in the LPGA SBS Open at Turtle Bay. Now, they represent the resort.

“;It is cool,”; Gipper, a recent high school graduate, said. “;Out of all the seniors in my class, I just might have the best summer story to tell.”;

Hawaii is expected to become their winter home, where they can work on their game instead of being snowed out in Utah. One of the first local events in which they'll likely compete is the newly titled Turtle Bay Resort Hawaii State Open, Dec. 17-20.