NORTON — Celtics general manager and president Danny Ainge is known as one of the preeminent minds in basketball. But when he’s not pilfering future assets from overmatched counterparts, Ainge retains a passion for the game of golf.
Ainge mingled with fans in the stands behind the driving range at TPC Boston early Saturday morning. Soon after, he set foot on the course, following a grouping that featured Justin Rose, Tony Finau, and Brooks Koepka in the second round of the Dell Technologies Championship.
“I’m out to watch some good golfers,’’ he said. “Maybe I can learn something.’’
Ainge is always looking to learn, and it’s helped him forge a unique bond with some of the PGA Tour’s best. In fact, the Rose/Finau/Koepka grouping seems suspiciously catered toward Ainge’s proclivities.
“I had a chance to play with Koepka on Thursday and I played with Finau a few weeks ago in Park City, [Utah], and Justin Rose is on the top of my fantasy league team,’’ said Ainge. “So I followed those guys most of the day. They’re three of my favorite guys to watch on tour.’’
Ainge’s relationship with Finau arose in August when mutual friends set them up for a date on the links at Victory Ranch Golf Club in Kamas, Utah. The union made sense, Finau emanating from Salt Lake City and Ainge having starred at BYU in the late 1970s and early 80s. Ainge donned Cougars garb as he strolled the course Saturday.
“[Danny is] an incredible guy and someone I’ve known about for a long time obviously, pretty much my whole life,’’ said Finau. “Big fan of his. Being able to play with him was awesome. He’s apparently a fan of mine, which is cool.’’
The two hit it off and have stayed in contact, grabbing dinner this week before the tournament commenced. Finau calls Ainge part mentor, part friend.
Meanwhile, Koepka got the privilege of playing with Ainge in Thursday’s pro-am, and was impressed with his ability to maneuver a frisky situation at No. 18.
“We had a good time,’’ said Koepka. “Especially with him chipping in [on 18], it was pretty neat.’’
Finau was equally impressed at how Ainge handled his clubs, adding “He’s a good little golfer.’’
But the man himself isn’t willing to engage in self-praise.
“My game is very average,’’ Ainge deadpanned.