A pair of professional golfers physically sat at opposite sides of the podium during Thursday’s Utah Championship press conference at the State Capitol.
Figuratively, they are also at opposite sides of their careers.
On one side sat Tony Finau of Lehi, who has become a nationally recognized name on the PGA Tour with his top 10 finish at the 2018 Masters, his fifth-place finish at the 2018 US Open (where he was in contention until the final hole) and his famous hole-in-one/ankle-injury-celebration in Augusta that has been watched at least a million times on YouTube.
On the other sat former BYU golfer Patrick Fishburn, a gifted athlete who just turned pro a month ago and is starting on his quest to reach the top.
“He’s a lot more seasoned than I was,” Finau said of Fishburn. “I was 17 years old while he is 25 or 26 years old. He’s got more experience under his belt.”
Beyond the experience, Finau believes the Fishburn has the tools to be a successful pro golfer.
“He’s an incredible player,” Finau said. “He shows he’s got all the parts to be successful. The best players in the world these days are athletic and they hit the ball far. Patrick fits that stereotype. He’s proven he has the short game, winning the Utah Open by like 10 strokes. That’s incredible. I’m proud to know he’s coming out of Utah because I think he’s going to do some special things in the game.”
For his part, the ex-Cougar said he values the advice and friendship from someone who has already gone down this road.
“It’s always very encouraging to see Tony and (former BYU golfers Zac Blair and Daniel Summerhays),” Fishburn said. “They are really good to me, really good friends. I know if I ever needed them, I could contact them and get all sorts of advice. Those guys are obviously extremely talented. It’s great to see guys from Utah make it through the snow and make it onto the tour. It gives hope for me and future guys who are trying to come up.”
Their different positions in life were even highlighted by their purposes for being at the press conference.
Finau’s appearance was because the Utah Championship is partnering with his Finau Foundation, sending a portion of the proceeds from the tournament to aid his efforts to support aspiring pro golfers.
“To be the beneficiary of the golf tournament, to create the funds to give back more is what it’s all about,” Finau said. “I have the most joy from that. Giving my time and efforts to something bigger than me, which is giving to others. This is going to be a really cool partnership.”
He said that his personal connection to the Utah Championship makes the partnership more special.
“I watched this tournament growing up and played in this tournament,” Finau said. “It’s the only PGA event we have here in Utah. I’m behind it 100 percent. To have this happen with the foundation is something I wanted from the start. We couldn’t be more excited.”
Fishburn, on the other hand, was there to accept an exemption that will allow him to make his debut in a Web.com Tour event.
“It’s awesome,” said Fishburn, who found out about the exemption on Wednesday. “I’m really grateful to be able to play in this event. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for several years. I remember Zac (Blair) got an exemption coming out of college and I hoped to maybe put myself in position to get an exemption. I’m pumped to at least have the opportunity to come out and play and see what happens.”
For pro golfers at the beginning of their careers, it’s all about finding and making the most of opportunities. Fishburn said after the Cougars ended their season at the NCAA tournament, it was time to move on.
“Right after I was done with college, I figured I was ready to start playing for some cash rather than pro-shop credit,” Fishburn said. “The Provo Open was coming up too, so I figured that was a good place to kick it off, playing where I had played for five years. Then I would transition up to the Canadian Tour. It’s been pretty smooth so far.”
He’s sure to face some top-level competition at the Utah Championship.
Utah Sports Commission president and CEO Jeff Robbins pointed out that four golfers from the 2017 competition went on to win PGA tour events in the past year. The second-highest purse on the Web.com Tour brought in 24 of the top 25 golfers on the tour last year.
The 2018 Utah Championship will take place at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on July 9-15.