Top golfer Tony Finau proud of his Samoan heritage
P.G.A. Tour golfer Tony Finau’s Polynesian heritage and upbringing keeps him humble despite his successes on the sport’s biggest stage.
The 29-year-old said he was taught the culture by his parents; mother Ravena of American Samoa and father Kelepi of Tonga.
“My parents raised me very much that way, respect and love.
“Being around a lot of Polynesians all the time, I learned to show respect to my elders and that’s something I always carry with me.”
Ravena passed away in 2011, and Tony is now handing down the lessons learned from her and Kelepi to his own four children.
“One of the things I’ll always remember my mum for is fa'amalosi, stay strong, be strong,” he said.
“It’s something that I remember now that she’s not around.”
Finau visited American Samoa in 2009 and 2010, which he said was very special.
“I went with my mum before she passed away, she showed me her village [Aua] where our family is from.
“That was quite humbling for me to see.”
He said he was happy to have been raised the Polynesian way, and that it serves him well today.
“We’re a people with a lot of faith, a lot of love.
“To show love and be humble, that’s something I pride myself on being throughout my career.
“It’s easy to be that way when you were raised that way, so a lot of credit to my parents.”
Finau said his heritage and culture has taught him a lot.
“It’s a huge part of who I am as a person, I love being Polynesian.”
Finau is the first golfer of Samoan and Tongan descent to hold a P.G.A. Tour card.
He acknowledged that the Polynesian people aren’t typically very familiar with golf.
“It’s not a very big sport in the islands, we’re about American football and rugby, volleyball.
“We kinda stay in that lane, but doing something different, golf has a lot to give and it’s a great game to be a part of.”
He said he doesn’t feel pressure from being Polynesia’s lone representative at the top of the golfing world, but wants to be an inspiration to the next generation of golfers from the islands.
“Not even to only play golf, just to do something different because you never know what could come about.
“I learned to love the game at a young age, and even with people telling me what I could and couldn’t do, I trusted that a lot of hard work would bring about some great things.
“Being involved in the game of golf changed my life, and it’s a special game to be a part of.”
Finau played other sports growing up as well, including volleyball and basketball in high school.
“I played all the other sports for fun, I knew I was a lot better at golf than any of them, and I worked a lot harder at golf than any other sport,” he said.
He knew golf was the sport when he won the Junior World Championship at age 12.
“I knew that was gonna be my gift, my talent I could share with the rest of the world.
“But I think it is cool to have a background in other sports because you learn how to compete.”
Finau said he prefers the individual sport of golf to team sports.
“I love the challenge of everything being on me.
“You can’t blame anything on anyone else because you’re the one that has to execute.”
He said he respects team sports because there are so many moving parts.
“So many people have to be on the same page and you’ve really got to work together.”
Finau said golf has taught him self-discipline, and he enjoys trying to better himself.
“My coach doesn’t tell me when to practice, I don’t have anybody telling me what to do.
“I know if I don’t practice, I’m not going to perform when it counts, and that’s all on me.”