“Hopefully something comes out of it,” he continued. “Whether it does or not, it sends a message to some of the kids in Utah and some of the guys coming up that I’ll take care of my own. I know what it’s like to try and make it.”
Fishburn has followed Finau’s story closer than most. They first began playing rounds together when the former was about 11 years old, and later took him as a former BYU teammate, though Finau declined his college scholarship there to immediately turn professional.
“He’d always come to the Cougar Day we have every year when past players come back,” Fishburn recalled. “I’ve always had a good relationship with him, ever since we were kids. He’s always been someone I’ve looked up to.”
That idolization has evolved into emulation, as Fishburn has begun following Finau’s path to the TOUR. He began his career with conditional status on Mackenzie Tour—PGA TOUR Canada last season, posting a pair of top-10s and weekend appearances in all seven tournaments in which he started. That strong start has led to full status this year, where he’s carded two top-25 results in three starts, including a solo-third at the Bayview Place DCBank Open presented by Times Colonist.
“I feel like I’ve come a long way,” he said. “The ball striking has been good. I’ve been focusing on putting and I’m improving in all areas. I’ve got a little bit better idea of what to expect and what can happen out on the course. I feel like I’m more prepared in every aspect for this year.”
One aspect of preparation he won’t have to spend quite as much time on now is balancing his budget.
With Finau’s aid, Fishburn can spend more time focusing on the rigors of advancing through the professional ranks, a luxury few others afford.
“It’s huge. It’s extremely tough to cover all the expenses and worry about that while also trying to play golf—it can wear you down a lot mentally,” Fishburn said. “To have one less thing to worry about, and being able to have a clear mental game with things lined up in your personal life at home… there’s lots of things that have to be going well for you outside of golf to be able to play well. It helps to focus on keeping as low of a score as I can.”
A life spent reaching the upper echelon of professional golf is about more than merely playing well. It’s also about figuring out just how far one can stretch a penny, as expenses traveling from one event to another often mount in a hurry.
It’s not uncommon for the cost of flights, hotels and commuting to the golf course to hang over a player as he spends the rest of his time worrying about making a cut.
“I know what it’s like to be in that position, to where you feel like, ‘Am I good enough? Am I not?’” Finau said. “But you don’t have the resources to play as much as you want, you don’t have the funds to do as much as you should be doing to take your game to the next level. It’s very rewarding for me because I’ve been in that position, and to now lend a helping hand for another who is in that position is really cool for me.”
The days of Fishburn having to play well in order to make his money back, at least for now, are gone. The coupon hunting, the frantic search for discounts, and special days on the McDonald’s app are no longer vital. (Though, as Fishburn notes, “it’s always nice to get the 2-for-1.”)
Like Finau, he hopes to one day pay it forward when he, too, can call himself a PGA TOUR star.
And he’ll have Finau to partly thank for that.
“One of the cool things about Tony is that what he likes most about his job is he’s in a position where he can give back and be a role model to young professional golfers,” Fishburn said. “Out in Utah, he’s loved for the way that he golfs but also how he handles himself off the course. I’m very honored, very humbled and obviously very grateful that he considered me and chose me as the first guy for this mentoring program.”