For Tony Finau, the choice of where to play one of his final warmup rounds before this week’s U.S. Open came down to two courses — Victory Ranch, one of Utah’s premier golf clubs, or Rose Park Golf Course, on the west side of Salt Lake City, where he grew up.
Finau chose Rose Park, of course.
Tucked in the middle of a fairly full tee sheet last Friday morning, there in the 7:48 a.m. tee time was the Finau group consisting of Tony, his 9-year-old son, Jraice, Tony’s younger brother, Gipper, and a cousin for an 18-hole round. They blended in with the usual bunch at Rose Park, although when word got out, Tony did get stopped a few times and graciously posed for photos or shook some hands.
It was a friendly round of golf, although the foursome was serious enough to play a couple of extra holes to determine the winner of the match between Tony and his son and the other two.
“We call this Rose Park Country Club,” said Finau of the 6,791-yard par-72 course that is often overshadowed by other city courses such as Bonneville, Mountain Dell and Glendale. “I still play here at least once a year.”
Finau estimates he played “thousands” of rounds at Rose Park growing up and just as many at the nearby Jordan River par-3, which now operates as a disc golf course.
“For 10 years I played here nearly every day,” Finau said. “Sometimes we’d go around (Jordan River) six or seven times in a day.”
After growing up near the Rose Park course and attending West High, Finau chose to forgo college scholarship offers and turned professional right after high school at age 17. A few years later after getting married, he settled in Lehi, and last year, he and his wife and four children moved to Scottsdale, Arizona.
Finau still considers Utah home, however, and spends his summers here to get out of the Arizona heat and to see extended family.
The 31-year-old has enjoyed another good season on the PGA Tour with $3.6 million in earnings, including a second-place finish at the Genesis Invitational. He ranks No. 13 in the FedEx Cup standings.
Finau feels he’s playing better following a brief slump this spring when he missed the cut in three of four events, his first missed cuts since last summer. Then he put together an eighth-place finish at the PGA Championship, his 10th career top-10 finish at a major, followed by decent finishes at the Charles Schwab Challenge and the Memorial in Ohio last week.
Finau said he likes Torrey Pines, where the Open is being played beginning Thursday, and “has always played well there,” including a tie for second at the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year.
Beyond the U.S. Open, Finau hopes to garner a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team in September at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. He currently ranks No. 9 in the U.S. standings with the top six earning automatic berths and six captain’s picks rounding out the squad.
As for Rose Park, Finau plans to help out the junior golf program through his Tony Finau Foundation and will continue to make annual visits to the place he learned the game and helped put him on the road to his No. 14 World Golf ranking with more than $23 million in career earnings.
Mike Sorensen is a Deseret News contributor.