“They tend to like to be part of a wheel rather than an individual spoke,” Mayer said.
The Finaus turned golf into a team sport. It was them against the world, two kids with secondhand clubs and generic clothing taking on the country club set. To help them, Gary relied on an illustrated book by Jack Nicklaus and instructional videos from the library. Once a week the boys splurged on a $7.50 bucket of balls at the local practice range. The rest of the time, to save money, they practiced in their garage, hitting off scraps of carpet into mattresses with targets drawn on them.
“I wouldn’t be as good as I am if I didn’t have a brother who pushed me at such a young age,” Tony said.
When he was about to turn 14, Finau planned to enter a public high school, Salt Lake’s East High, where he could expect to prosper athletically but would be separated from his older siblings. They attended Salt Lake’s West High, which had no golf team at the time. His mother, Ravena, objected to placing athletics above family and challenged Tony to put golf in its proper place. If West High was good enough for his older siblings, she said, it was good enough for him.
“She basically put her foot down and said that if you’re as good in golf as you think you are, you’ll figure it out,” Finau said. “It was a life lesson I’ve never forgotten. She basically was saying that what I needed to succeed, I already had. It was inside me.”
He enrolled at West, and then recruited classmates to join the golf team. It was a challenge filling out the roster. But by Finau’s junior year, he had assembled a special group. Gipper had arrived, and so had a girl, Daley Owens, who would earn a golf scholarship to Rutgers. With the driver’s education teacher serving as the coach, West won Utah’s 4A state championship.
“It was like a miracle, really,” Finau said.