PGA West site of big mini-tour money moment for Tony Finau

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LA QUINTA, Calif. – In another life before he became an American Ryder Cup star and a perennial contender on the PGA Tour, Tony Finau was among the anonymous thousands grinding out a livelihood on the mini-tours.

It was one of those mini-tour events in 2011 at PGA West, site of this week’s American Express where Finau is among the favorites, that the 31-year-old enjoyed his first financial breakthrough.

The American Express: Full-field tee times | Full coverage

“I made my biggest check here. It was $21,000 to the winner,” Finau said. “That was my biggest check I had made in my mini-tour days. And it ended up being like my second biggest check overall that I’ve ever made in my mini-tour days, but at that time, that was the most money I had ever made in a week’s work.”

To put that in context, Finau earned more than twice that haul ($49,000) for his tie for 31st out of 41 players in Maui two weeks ago and he’s won $20.5 million in his career on the PGA Tour. But that breakthrough in 2011 at PGA West was a valuable lesson.

“I just remember that being a big deal for me, a lot of stress off my shoulders moving forward,” he said. “You live on a week-to-week, day-to-day basis in the mini-tour life and that was able to get me into, really take care of me for the year. I was pretty frugal with my money in those years and you have to be, every penny, every dollar is accounted for.”