Ryan Smith, the owner of the Utah Jazz and a well-known philanthropist in Salt Lake City, has decided to put his other interests on hold for at least one year. He’ll be taking a break from running the team while he caddies for longtime friend Tony Finau this season. The two have been friends since childhood.

Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith taking break from day job to caddie for longtime friend Tony Finau

NASSAU, Bahamas (CBSNewYork) — Ryan Smith looked like a PGA Tour caddy at the Hero World Challenge, with his tanned, stubbled face hidden under dark sunglasses and a black T-shirt beneath a white bib.

Looping is a vacation from Tony Finau’s day work, and Smith only missed his normal routine when he looked at the calendar. The owner of the Utah Jazz will skip a home game against the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

Despite this, he couldn’t pass up the chance.

Mark Urbanek, Finau’s normal caddy, is at home with his wife, who is expecting a kid. Finau and Smith have known each other in Salt Lake City for as long as either of them can remember.

“‘Bro, I need you to caddy for me,’ he said when he phoned. Didn’t I have to answer the doorbell?” Smith remarked so after his week’s boss sank an 18-foot birdie putt for a 6-under 66 and a one-shot deficit heading into the weekend.

“You go when Tony calls. He doesn’t make a lot of demands.”

In Smith’s absence, the Jazz defeated the Celtics 137-130.

For the week, Jazz owner Ryan Smith worked part-time as a caddy for longtime buddy Tony Finau at the Hero World Challenge. Finau’s normal caddy had to take the week off due to his wife’s pregnancy. AP

This isn’t their first time inside a tournament’s ring. Finau and Smith have partnered twice in the Dunhill Links Championship, a three-course rotation that permits Smith to play Carnoustie’s Barry Burn and St. Andrews’ Road Hole.

“I’ve played next to him as an amateur partner on the Old Course when he’s in contention, so I know his game and his demeanor,” Smith said. “It’s the ideal situation.”

Almost.

Finau came inside to sign his card at Albany Golf Club as Smith reached the top of the stairwell adjacent to the scoring room. This was more work than play for him, but he was having a great time.

“I guess everyone thinks I’m on vacation,” he added, lugging a 50-pound backpack about. “This is strenuous job. I’m completely spent.”

Smith is a co-founder of Qualtrics, a Utah-based cloud computing business that was sold to SAP for $8 billion three years ago. A year ago, the 44-year-old became the Jazz’s main owner.

Basketball, like golf, has been a lifetime love for me.

Smith remarked, “I had a stepfather who is no longer with us, but he sort of got me started in golf.” “When I was 14, I started working at a golf course, picking up balls on the range, and I fell in love with it. ‘OK, you’ve got to sit down and see what your stuff are,’ I told myself in my twenties. Golf is one of my hobbies.”

Smith spent enough time on his game while establishing Qualtrics to go down to a 2 handicap index. Finau has been at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am alongside players like Branden Grace and Josh Teater, in addition to playing the Dunhill Links with him in 2018 and 2019.

Smith earned the Jack Lemmon Award at Pebble Beach in 2019, which is given to the amateur who assists his pro the most. In the pro-am, he and Teater came in third.

Smith compared it to “suiting up and playing an NBA preseason game.”

As much as he enjoys the competition, Smith values the connections he makes via golf, as well as a little solitude and quiet.

“On the golf courses, I’ve met some of the greatest business partnerships and partners I’ve ever met.” “If it hadn’t been for this game, our paths would have never met,” he remarked. “It’s also the only location I go where my phone remains in my bag, which is amazing.”

“‘You need yoga,’ my wife says. I tell her that my yoga is similar to golf.”

Smith enjoys basketball as much as he enjoys golfing alongside Finau, one of the most well-known players on the PGA Tour. Finau won The Northern Trust to kick off the PGA Tour’s playoffs, ending a five-year drought that spanned 142 events.

Finau was a shoo-in for the Ryder Cup squad, when he partnered with Harris English in a record-breaking thrashing by the Americans at Whistling Straits.

This is a great way to cap off a successful year: a 20-player field, a $3.5 million purse, and a $1 million prize for the winner. Finau claims that his millionaire pal will be treated as if he were an ordinary caddy.

“I know he’s taking a huge wage reduction,” Finau told Golf Channel. “It’s a lively environment, and it’s the ideal competition for Ryan to attend.”

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