Congressman Faleomavaega today offers his congratulations to Mr. Tony Finau and Mr. Gipper Finau who recently turned professional golfers and competed for the $2 million first prize in the “Ultimate Game” at the Wynn Gate Las Vegas Tournament.
The Ultimate Game tournament is 40-player format competing for the $2 million winner takes all prize, the largest first place prize offered in golf. To qualify, players must have never been a fully-exempt member of the PGA Tour, PGA European Tour, Champions Tour, or Nationwide Tour. It begins with a preliminary round of 20 matches, and the 20 winners advance to the Championship bracket in Day Two while the 20 losers go to the first round of the Consolation Bracket. The 10 winners from the Championship Bracket plus two winners from the Consolation Bracket advance to the Final Championship Round.
“Although his younger brother, Gipper Finau, age 16, did not make the cut, Tony Finau went on to make the final 12 for the Final Championship Round with a shot at collecting the $2 million prize,” Faleomavaega said. “This is an amazing achievement for such a young man of 17 years of age who has just turned professional golfer on the same day he graduated from high school. In the end, Tony placed 8th with a 72 score, 2-over-par, and took home $100,000 in his first-ever tournament as a professional.”
“According to news reports, Tony’s playing partners and the many spectators who observed him play were amazed by his driving distance and short game. Many times, he drove the golf ball more than 350 yards with one measured at least 385. This is just a mere example of the quality of play that is quite in comparison to the likes of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus at their prime. We can only expect greatness from this young man representing all Polynesians in this great sport. ”
Tony Finau and Gipper Finau are of Samoan and Tongan descent. They are the sons of Mr. Kelepi Finau and Ravena Mapu Finau, originally of Tonga and American Samoa respectively and now residing in Rose Park–Salt Lake City, Utah. They are the grandsons of Lei’a Mapu of Aoa village, American Samoa and Nola Fonua of Houma village, Tongatapu, Tonga.
“It is my understanding that Tony Finau had received offers from many colleges and universities including a full ride scholarships from Brigham Young University. However, he decided to turn pro after he was encouraged by professional golfer Johnny Miller. As a friend of the Finau family, the former US Open and British Open champion who was inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1996 had taken Tony and Gipper on a golf outing. Miller was so impressed with their skill and quality of play that he advised the family that they are more than ready and qualified to compete in the professional level of golf.”
“I have observed these fine young men since they were in grade school and have played a few rounds of golf with them and like many others, I continue to be in awe by their raw talent. Again, I want to congratulate Tony and Gipper on their success, especially their family and friends for their constant support and encouragement. I wish them the best in their future endeavors and I am looking forward to their success in golf and life,” Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.
From left to right: Congressman Faleomavaega, Mr. Kelepi Finau, Gipper Finau, Tony Finau, and professional boxer David Tua in this September 2006 photo in Utah.