On golf: Tony Finau, on Another Masters Adventure, Carries Memories of an Idol

Posted by on April 12, 2019  /   Posted in golf reviews

Tony Finau placed a lucky 13th ball in his bag for his opening round of one-under-par 71 on Thursday at the Masters .

Along with the four sleeves of three balls that he usually wears, Finau had one with the Augusta National logo signed by his idol, Billy Casper.

Casper, the 1970 Masters champion, became something of a Finau fan years ago when they met in Utah, their shared home state. He died at 83 three years before Finau, 29, made his Masters debut, managing a draw for 10th last year despite a high ankle sprain while celebrating a gap in a during the Wednesday par-3 game.

After watching Finau make his way around Augusta National, a friend, Larry Olsen, gave him the ball signed by Casper.

"After the incident last year," Finau said, referring to his injury, "Larry felt Billy would have wanted me to have it."

The ball was on for almost a year a shelf in Finau & # 39; s trophy room in his home near Salt Lake City. He decided to put it in his bag for this event in honor of Casper, who loved the masters, and also as a talisman.

"Perhaps Casper's ghost will appear and we will get that green coat," Finau, who is in fifteenth place in the world, said with a smile on Thursday.

Finau recalled Casper & # 39; s memory by deleting the first round in what his caddy, Gregory Bodine, described as "a nervous start"


Finau found navigation bunkers off the tee nos. 1 and 2, hit the sand on four of the first five holes and somehow made the turn on par. He stood up and down for par at the fifth hole of a bunker behind the green and almost packed up on the par-3 sixth after a bad tee shot.

"I think these were the huge momentum changers during the round that you have to post a good number," said Finau, who compensated his bogey on the par-3 fourth with a birdie on the par-5 eighth on make the turn in 36 strokes.

"I was very satisfied, actually, to finish at 10 on the same level," he said. He had birdies on both the par 5s on the back nine and, after paying the 17th, just missed a birdie at 18 to end the day five strokes off the lead.

One of Casper's 11 children is certain that their father would have been impressed by the Finau Tour.

"Although Tony hits the ball a long distance, which Pa saw and really liked about his game, his course management and his ability to get the ball around the golf course," Casper & # 39; s son Bob, the third oldest of the 11, said in a telephone interview. "Because those were things that Father was proud of in his game."

Finau recalled that Casper had once described his 18-hole playoff victory over Gene Littler in Augusta National as his "most proud moment". He and Casper met for the first time at a golf event in Utah, where Casper was staying alongside one in his native San Diego.

Finau was 14 and showed great promise in the game that he learned to play by swinging targets on mattresses hanging from the ceiling of his family's garage in Salt Lake City. Finau & # 39; s hard-scrabble beginnings and close family ties reminded Casper of himself.

The next time they saw each other, late in the teenage years of Finau, Casper presented him with a signed copy of his memoir, "The Big Three and Me."

The Great Three referred to Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, who claimed the headlines and commercial ventures while Casper was quietly winning. He finished with 51 PGA Tour wins and collected at least one title in 16 consecutive seasons, from 1956 to 1971.

"He won more tournaments than the Big Three in the years & # 39; 70 and & # 39; 80, "said Finau. "It's ridiculous that people don't talk about him as one of the greatest of all time."

"Deep down, I think he believed I could be someone in the game," Finau added, "" and giving me his book and wishing me well was actually all I needed as a child had to be inspired. "

After Casper died of a heart attack, Finau attended the funeral." It meant a lot to our family, and it would have meant a lot to Dad, "said Bob Casper.

Casper & # 39; s widow, Shirley, an eighty year old, follows Finau & # 39; s progress and occasionally posts on his Instagram page.

"She thought it was great that my father really liked Tony, "said Bob Casper, and added:" I think what my father saw and what she now sees is a champion's heart; someone who has not necessarily taken the easy way to sharpen their profession. "

Shirley Casper followed Finau & # 39; s round on television and then it sounded like she had seen a ghost.

" Tony played the percentage of photos just like Billy, " she said through Rich Katz, a spokesperson for the family. "If the pin is on the side and there is danger, he would have been hit from it, even if he had two-putt."

"He is a very cautious, conservative and smart player, "she added." I look forward to fighting him. "

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