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Tony Finau owes much of his PGA success to teacher Summerhays

SALT LAKE CITY — Growing up in Utah, Tony Finau knew all about the Summerhays' family golf legacy. He knew Daniel Summerhays after facing him in the state amateur finals in 2006 and by playing with him occasionally in pro golf events after they both turned professional the same year.

But Finau really didn’t know Boyd Summerhays, 10 years his senior, very well when he made one of the most important phone calls of his life about 14 months ago.

At the time, Finau was in the early stages of his first season on the Web.com Tour and had made just three of six cuts and a little more than $22,000. He was looking for some direction in his game and had heard that Boyd was teaching golf.

“I felt like I had some chances and had put myself in contention, but wasn’t able to execute some shots down the stretch,’’ Finau said. “I was looking for an extra pair of eyes to see how I could get better and one of the first names that popped into my head was Boyd Summerhays.’’

So Finau called Summerhays in late April of 2014 and the two met at Davis Park Golf Course for an hour lesson.

“I just got Boyd’s number and gave him a buzz and said, ‘Would you mind taking a peek at my swing?’

The rest, as they say, is history.

Finau has made more than $1.3 million on the PGA Tour this season and will be playing in his first U.S. Open this week with Daniel Summerhays, while older brother Boyd Summerhays will be at Chambers Bay helping Finau with his game.

After his initial meeting with Boyd Summerhays, Finau made nine straight cuts on the Web.com Tour, including a fifth-place finish at the Utah Championship at Willow Creek, before breaking through with a victory at the Stonbrae Classic in Hayward, California in early August.

That earned him a check for $108,000 and more importantly clinched a spot for him on the 2015 PGA Tour. He eventually moved up to eighth place on the final Web.com Tour money list by making the cut in the final six tournaments of the year, meaning he made 16 of 17 cuts after hooking up with Summerhays.

The PGA Tour season began soon after in October and Finau picked right up where he left off, finishing in a tie for 12th, a tie for 7th and a tie for 14th in his first three PGA events and earning a quick $400,000, more than he’d won in his professional career up to that point.

Finau hit a dry spell when he missed four cuts in five events in March and April, but in his last four tournaments, he’s finished in the top 20 in all four, capped off by an eighth-place finish at the Memorial Tournament, where he added another $179,800 to his pocketbook.

Boyd Summerhays, who was once ranked as the No. 1 junior player in the country and had his own promising PGA Tour career cut short by a back injury, has been more than happy to work as Finau’s swing coach after being contacted out of the clear blue.

“I had texted him to congratulate him after he got through Q school (in late 2013), Summerhays said. “Even though I’m 10 years older, I’ve followed Tony with pride and all the great things he’s done. When he reached out to me, I just thought it was a great opportunity.’’

Within a month after their first meeting at Davis Park, Summerhays started traveling with Finau every third week and the two have never gone more than two weeks without Summerhays helping Finau with his shots. Finau even spent part of the offseason in Scottsdale with Summerhays and his family.

So how has Summerhays helped improve Finau’s game?

Finau says it’s mostly his setup and how he sees shots, but concedes Summerhays has helped with his whole game. Summerhays said one of the first things he did was help change Finau’s ball flight so that it “was a little tighter of a fade with less spin,’’ helping him control shots better.

“He’s always hit the ball super solid, but now it has less spin coming off the club face,’’ said Summerhays. “It’s been fun to work with a kid that's such a great person and great player. It’s been very rewarding.''

Finau has won $1,322,595 this PGA Tour season, which started last fall and has made 14 of 21 cuts, finished in the top 25 10 times and in the top 10 four times. He stands 54th in the FedEx Cup standings. He's already clinched a spot on next year's PGA Tour.

Daniel Summerhays says he and Finau have become closer, playing the PGA Tour together this year and it’s been a double blessing for him to see his brother regularly.

“I’m really happy for Tony and all of his success, he’s a great guy,’’ he said. “But now I’m able to see my brother and see the success that he’s having as well. Obviously his career didn’t go the way he expected it to go but he’s at peace with that and I’m really happy for Boyd and his success through Tony.’’