HAVEN, Wis. – Lola Parker and Gary Finau have talked by phone for years. They not only share the bond of being first cousins, they are both parents of professional athletes—Lola is the mother of Milwaukee Bucks’ Jabari Parker, and Gary is the father of golfer Tony Finau. Both followed Tony as he shot a third-round 69, including a bogey-bogey finish, in the third round of the 97th PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on Saturday.
At 10-under for the tournament, five shots behind leader Jason Day and in a tie for sixth place with Matt Jones, Finau hopes to improve upon his first and only major championship finish, a T14 at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay earlier this summer. He will have plenty of support. Also in his gallery Saturday: His coach, Boyd Summerhays; Finau’s wife, Alayna; their 5-month-old son, Tony, Jr.; and Jabari Parker’s sisters, 22-year-old Tila and 24-year-old Iman, all conspicuous by their Nike gear.
But what about his second cousin Jabari, who lives in Grafton, just 40 minutes south of here?
“He may have already been here,” his mom Lola said. “He left some caps in Tony’s locker. Tony came up to me and said, ‘Thanks for the hats.’ I said, ‘I didn’t leave those.’ How would I have gotten into the locker room?”
It’s complicated, this relationship between Tony, a 25-year-old father of three who is chasing what would be by far the biggest victory of his career at Whistling Straits, and Jabari, 20, who is trying to come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that prematurely ended his rookie year.
“We have a mutual respect for each other,” Tony says.
But that doesn’t mean they hang out, or even talk that much.
“Jabari wouldn’t want to come out here and be recognized and be in Tony’s spotlight,” said Lola, who has never played golf and is attending her first tournament here this week. “So he tries to stay in the background. He likes golf. I hear he’s even learning to play golf. But if he watches Tony he is very quiet about it. He went to the U.S. Open and watched him for two days, and Tony didn’t even know he was there.”
Working in the shadows can’t be easy; Parker is 6 feet, 8 ½ inches in bare feet. “I don’t know how he hid,” Finau said after his round Saturday, which included six birdies but, alas, three bogeys—one of those a good bogey after he pulled his tee shot left and over the cliff at the par-3 17th.
As for the hats that were left in his locker at Whistling Straits? “I don’t know who threw ’em in there,” he said. Could Parker have been secretly here, the way he was at Chambers? “No,” Finau said. “He’s getting ready for his season. He’s got more important things to worry about.”
Finau is 6 feet, 4 inches tall and has had size 14 ½ feet since he was 14. He also needs five wraps under his grips to accommodate his enormous hands. But on Sunday, when he will play alongside 2010 PGA champion Martin Kaymer, keep your eyes peeled for another, taller man who just might be in the gallery, determined to blend in as he watches his soft-spoken second cousin play the biggest round of his life.