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Utah golfer Tony Finau shares emotional experience of his mother’s sacrifice to help his career

Tony Finau watches his approach shot on the 12th hole during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, May 3, 2019.
Tony Finau watches his approach shot on the 12th hole during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, May 3, 2019.
AP

It’s been well-chronicled over the years how Utah native Tony Finau grew up with modest means before making the PGA Tour, but on Mother’s Day Sunday, he shared via social media a rather emotional example of how his family sacrificed to help him chase his golf dreams.

In an animated video narrated by Finau that was produced by the Tour, he recalled a time when he was a teenager in 2004 and he and his mother Vena were at a tournament in Milwaukee.

As Finau tells it, he shot a 69 to take the lead after the first round, and some players’ families then went out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Vena declined the invitation to go, and Tony said some other parents paid for his meal.

“I just remember eating literally everything in sight,” Finau said.

When Finau returned to his hotel room, his mother was sitting on her bed, with some coins in her hand and tears coming down her face. Finau asked what was wrong, and his mother told him she had wanted to go to dinner, but she didn’t have enough money.

“I remember looking her in the eyes, holding her hands and saying, ‘Mom, don’t worry. You won’t be counting these coins for long. I’m gonna make it, and it’s all gonna be worth it,’” he said in the video.

Finau said he finished well at the tournament and qualified for the Junior Ryder Cup Team.

“This is one of many instances where my family sacrificed everything we had for my dreams to come true,” he said. “On this Mother’s Day, I’m grateful for my mom, the sacrifices she made and everything she’s done for me in my life.”

Vena Finau passed away in 2011 in an auto accident at the age of 47.

While the Tour is currently suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic (the plan is to resume play in June), Finau has been involved in multiple efforts to help those in need. Early on, his foundation donated money to provide meals for families in the Rose Park area where he grew up, and it has also donated to ProjectProtect, a Utah initiative that seeks volunteers to make medical-grade face masks for frontline health workers.