Finau brothers back in Utah for Nationwide event

first_imgSANDY — Since we last checked in with them, the Finau brothers have been traveling the world, wowing crowds in Europe with their prodigious driving skills.Now they’re back home hoping to show they can not only hit it long but also score well on the Nationwide Tour’s Utah EnergySolutions Championship at Willow Creek Country Club. The $500,000 72-hole tournament begins Thursday and runs through Sunday.The 17-year-old brothers — Tony turns 18 next week, Gipper turned 17 two weeks ago — are among the 156-player field that includes several other local golfers. Because the Finaus both turned professional earlier this summer, they have a chance to win the $90,000 first prize.The brothers, who live in Rose Park, got into the Scandinavian Masters thanks to Jesper Parnevik, who was so impressed with them when Tony played in the U.S. Bank tournament in Milwaukee that he arranged sponsor’s exemptions for them.As soon as they got to Sweden, Parnevik had them do some clinics on the driving range, mostly to show off their driving prowess.”People love to see the long ball,” said Tony.In one clinic, a large net was set up at the end of the range about 280 yards out, to keep balls from hitting houses beyond. The boys said John Daly, who also played in the tournament, wasn’t able to hit over the net.”Jesper made a pretty big deal out of us,” Tony said. “We hit a few balls and Jesper said, ‘All right guys, pull out the driver.”‘Gipper smacked his first drive over the net into the houses much to the delight of the crowd.”I hit one and — boom — it hit a house and then Tony hit one and — boom — it hit a house,” Gipper said.”After we hit the houses three or four times, people started coming out and Jesper said, ‘I told you these guys could hit the houses.’ It was pretty funny.”Apparently the houses were OK as the boys reported hearing no glass breaking or anyone calling the police on them.Both brothers missed the cut in Sweden that week and Tony was given an exemption to the KLM tournament in the Netherlands the following week. After starting with a 68, he shot a 77 to miss the cut. Despite not making money, the trip was worthwhile.”We learned a lot out there,” said Tony. “It’s a different game with different styles of shots. There are some key things we need to work on. It was definitely an eye-opener.”Both of the Finaus said their pro experience has been good so far and has helped them get past the intimidation factor. In fact, their fellow pros have been quite impressed with the Finaus’ game.”We used to watch players on the tour hit balls on the range,” said Gipper. “Now they stop to watch us on the range. So we started looking at it like, ‘Hey, maybe we can play with these guys.”‘Last year Gipper became the youngest player to make the cut at a Nationwide Tour event and the second youngest at a PGA Tour-sponsored event when he finished in a tie for 58th place.Gipper has gone back to West High, where he will finish up his senior year. Because he will be traveling also, he’ll have to do some of the work online.”My expectations are a little higher this year,” Gipper said. “Last year it was more like, ‘Wow I made the cut, this is fun.’ This year being a pro, it’s my job, so I want to do well.”This will be Tony’s first Nationwide event and he’s also hoping to do more than make the cut.”I’m hitting the ball well right now,” he said. “I’ll come out here and definitely try to win it.” After this week, the Finaus hope to play in more Nationwide events this year or perhaps some PGA Tour events later this month or in October. QUALIFIERS: Bad weather kept both qualifiers at Wingpointe Golf Course in Salt Lake and Glen Eagle Golf Course in Syracuse from finishing Tuesday.About 40 golfers must finish at Glen Eagle this morning while nine players are left at Wingpointe.Gary Woodland had the best score at Glen Eagle, a 9-under-par 63, while John Hayes and Michael Nicoletti both shot 65. Former Southern Utah golfer Kenny Ebalo shot 66, while former Utah State golfer Brett Black was in a group at 67.At Wingpointe, Will Dottley and Mike Sposa both shot 65, while Utah Open runnerup Ryan Ellis was in a group at 66. Utah Open champion Clay Ogden shot a 1-under 71 at Glen Eagle to miss qualifying. E-mail: sor@desnews.comlast_img

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