Golf: Ex-BYU star Daniel Summerhays becoming PGA tour fixture
Daniel Summerhays already knows what he will say when he wins a PGA Tour event. He'll describe a long journey in pro golf, with checkpoints including a fast-food place in Kaysville, a hotel parking lot in Southern California and tens of thousands of miles of interstate highways in a motor home.
"It's only a matter of time before I get in the right situation," he said this past week, between tour stops.
Summerhays is the second member of his family to reach the PGA Tour, but he's only the second Utah high school graduate in modern history to establish himself as a multi-year tour player, following Dixie's Jay Don Blake.
Summerhays' steady ascent in the game is such that "it's easy, because you live it every day, not to be impressed with it," said his father, Lynn. "When you step back, it's, wow!"
Seven years after turning pro, he's hovering around the top 100 in the Official World Golf Rankings, has posted three straight seasons of $1 million in earnings and ranks in the top 40 in the tour's FedExCup standings.
Summerhays once wrote English essays at Davis High School about dueling in the final round of the U.S. Open with his brother Boyd, who would precede him on the PGA Tour. He won consecutive State Amateur titles at ages 16 and 17 and became a first-team All-American at BYU, showing signs of fulfilling that promise.
Yet the odds are staggering for any golfer. "He's always been great, but that doesn't mean you're going to make it and be successful," his brother said, and he should know. A former No. 1-ranked junior golfer, Boyd Summerhays qualified for the PGA Tour's 2004 season, but injuries short-circuited his playing career and steered him into golf teaching.
English topics aside, Daniel Summerhays, now 30, was not always obsessed with becoming a pro golfer. That commitment came only after a long conversation at with Emily, amid tears and burritos at a Taco Time in Kaysville, the week before their wedding in December 2005 during his sophomore year at BYU.
"We made the decision together," she said. "He valued my opinion."
And when Summerhays' opportunity to turn pro and use a Web.com Tour exemption in 2007 came after his shocking win in Columbus, Ohio, the couple launched into a travel schedule that has crisscrossed the country, with three children joining them along the way. They sold their motor home last year, after making it their primary residence in the interest of togetherness and stability for the boys. When the oldest child, Jack, started kindergarten in Farmington last August, the family settled into a more traditional pro golf lifestyle, occasionally flying to join Summerhays at tour stops.
Emily Summerhays keeps her husband "perfectly grounded," her father-in-law said, "and yet she's his biggest fan." She's known for saying the right thing, and knowing when not to say anything. If there's a turning point in Summerhays' career, it came on his 28th birthday in December 2011. A difficult rookie season, while he struggled with his golf swing, meant a trip to the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament in order to keep his playing privileges.
He was playing solidly in the middle of the 108-hole final stage at La Quinta, California, only to triple-bogey his last hole.
So after Emily and the boys picked him up and they drove to their hotel, he stewed for nearly 20 minutes before coming inside. And then he was cured, thanks to a new attitude.
"When he came in, he just had a different countenance," his wife said. "That's a moment he's gone back to several times: 'I can let this be the end of it, or I can just get back in and fight.' "
The next season, a fourth-place finish in the Memorial Tournament near Columbus, about five miles from the site of his Web.com Tour win, clinched his status for 2013. Last July, he enjoyed a three-week run of top-10 finishes, including a playoff loss in a Mississippi tournament held opposite the British Open, and then advanced to the third FedEx Cup playoff event in the fall.
A tie for second in the Texas Open in April reinforced how close he is to winning, while developing a healthy balance between job and family. More life changes are coming this summer, with a move into a newly built home in Fruit Heights and the arrival of a fourth child, a girl.
Discussing how she's managed everything so far, Emily Summerhays added good-naturedly, "Ask me in a year."
By then, her husband may have reached yet another stage of PGA Tour success. "When he gets his first win," Boyd Summerhays said, "he'll kick it up to another level."
Daniel Summerhays' PGA Tour career
Year Events Cuts made Top 10 Top 25 Money
2011 29 8 0 2 $301,899
2012 26 15 4 6 $1,111,522
2013 26 15 4 6 $1,277,886
2014* 20 16 2 7 $1,204,253
*Includes cut made in this weekend's Memorial Tournament; the 2014 season started in October on the tour's new calendar.
Two Utahns who followed Daniel Summerhays as State Amateur champions as teenagers are candidates to join him on the PGA Tour:
Tony Finau • Seven years after turning pro just prior to his West High School graduation, Finau is enjoying a strong rookie season on the Web.com Tour. He tied for fourth place last weekend in South Carolina and has earned $66,773 to rank 27th on the money list through 10 events. The top 25 finishers will advance to the PGA Tour and the next 50 will have a further qualifying opportunity via the Web.Com Tour finals. Finau, 24, will play in the Utah Championship, July 10-13 at Willow Creek Country Club.
Zac Blair • Having completed his BYU career last year, the Fremont product is playing the PGA Tour Latino America. He has posted three top-10 finishes and six top-25 results in seven events, earning $20,436 to rank 17th on the money list going into the tour's summer break. The top five finishers will advance to the 2015 Web.com Tour.
Where are they now?
Since the PGA Tour moved to an all-exempt format in 1983, five Utah high school graduates have qualified for one or more seasons. Those who preceded Davis' Daniel Summerhays:
• Jimmy Blair. After making 13 starts and earning only $1,786 in 1984, Blair has thrived in regional tournaments and has made occasional Champions Tour appearances since turning 50 in 2005. A two-time Utah Section PGA player of the year, Ogden's Blair also is a successful golf entrepreneur, having created the Mulligans franchises and now operating Sun River Golf Club in St. George.
• Jay Don Blake. The former Dixie High and Utah State golfer is by far the most successful Utah native to play the PGA Tour, having competed full-time from 1987-2003. He earned $5.5 million and won the tour's San Diego stop in 1991. Blake, 55, has added three Champions Tour victories and banked $4.4 million, although a shoulder injury has limited his play this season.
• Brad Sutterfield. A Brighton High School product, Sutterfield became the first member of his BYU team to qualify for the PGA Tour, ahead of Mike Weir and Dean Wilson. He earned only $18,649 in 20 events in 1997 and never returned to that level, although he won tournaments on the Canadian and European Challenge tours. Sutterfield is now Dixie State University's golf coach.
• Boyd Summerhays. An older brother of Daniel Summerhays, the former Oklahoma State golfer joined the PGA Tour in 2004 and started promisingly, only to have his career derailed by injuries after he earned $57,920 over parts of three seasons. Summerhays is a rising star as a teaching pro. He's the director of instruction at McDowell Mountain Golf Club in Arizona and spends most of the summer at Davis Park Golf Course.