About five years later, 11 miles from the course where his professional golf life basically started, Daniel Summerhays advanced his PGA Tour career significantly Sunday.
With a tie for fourth place in the Memorial Tournament near Columbus, Ohio, Summerhays pretty much assured himself of retaining a PGA Tour card for 2013.
That’s a huge breakthrough for a player who’s been hoping to establish himself on the big tour ever since he stunningly won a Nationwide Tour event in Columbus as an amateur in 2007 and decided to turn pro.
His latest performance came in the tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus. Considering how Summerhays named his first-born son Jack, it all ties together.
A former Davis High School and BYU golfer, Summerhays struggled through most of his rookie season of 2011, but his prospects are much better now. Besides learning new courses and trying to plan his travel schedule, Summerhays was undergoing major swing changes last season, all of which he described as “a recipe for a bad year.”
He gave himself another chance by advancing through the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, and he’s taking full advantage of it. Summerhays, 28, posted two top-10 finishes in opposite-field tournaments in Mexico and Puerto Rico, scheduled the week as World Golf Championship events that lured most of the top players.
But his top-five showing in the Memorial came against a strong field, and he was richly rewarded. His check for $272,800 nearly matched his earnings from all of 2011, and boosted his season total to $674,625. That’s slightly more than the number required to make last year’s top 125, good for renewed playing privileges.
Dixie’s Jay Don Blake, now playing the Champions Tour, is the only Utah high school product who’s stayed on the tour with a top-125 finish. Summerhays would love to match Blake’s long career, and he may be on his way.
Sunday, he discovered the benefits of a strong finish. Just by making a birdie on the 18th hole, Summerhays added at least $50,000. He played the last five holes in 3 under par, including an eagle and two birdies, which boosted his winnings by more than $100,000.
That’s how you make your season. In April, Summerhays observed how he was only “one good tournament away” from keeping his card, and he proved himself right.
Now that the pressure’s off, he can target bigger goals. He’s 75th in the FedEx Cup standings and can think about the late-season playoffs, while also hoping to play his way into major tournaments. Actually, that process begins today. Summerhays is competing in a 36-hole sectional qualifying event for the U.S. Open. One round is being contested on Ohio State’s Scarlet Course, the site of his 2007 Nationwide Tour victory.
If he advances, he may think about moving from Farmington to Columbus.