Farmington • Fifteen minutes after becoming the youngest champion in the 120-year history of the State Amateur, 15-year-old Preston Summerhays stood on the spot of the winning stroke and replayed the memory of a birdie that will stick with him for a long time.
“Honestly, I got over the putt and I just wanted to drain it,” he said. “There’s nothing else I wanted more.”
The 10-footer on Oakridge Country Club’s par-5 No. 16 gave him a 3-and-2 victory over University of Utah golfer Kyler Dunkle in the 36-hole final match Saturday, evoking an emotional fist pump from Summerhays and a family celebration around the green. The victory is significant for multiple reasons, extending a Summerhays dynasty in the State Am and rewriting Utah golf history in the process.
Utah Golf Association lore has suggested for a century that the legendary George Von Elm was 15 when he won the first of his three titles in 1917. But he was born in March 1901, making him 16. Daniel Summerhays, Preston’s uncle, also was 16 (but a few months older than Von Elm) in 2000, when he claimed the first of his consecutive victories.
Summerhays, a rising sophomore in high school in Arizona, will turn 16 next month. His family spends the summers in Davis County, where he was born. The Salt Lake Tribune once described Preston as potentially “the next great Summerhays golfer,” even if he was only 17 months old at the time. That became an very good forecast Saturday, when he added another chapter to one of those Utah golf stories that requires a family tree illustration. This one comes with strong Oakridge roots.
Try to follow along: Boyd Preston Summerhays Jr. — always known as Preston, and now nicknamed “P” — is a fourth-generation State Am contestant. His great-grandfather, the original Preston Summerhays, first competed in 1926. Then came Lynn Summerhays, who lost to his brother Bruce in the 1966 semifinals at Oakridge, where Bruce took the title. Boyd Summerhays lost to his brother Daniel in the quarterfinals in 2001, when Daniel went on to win his second championship.
In 2008, at age 64, Bruce Summerhays edged Boyd at Oakridge in a final-round duel in the Utah Open, a stroke-play event.
Preston Summerhays was aware of only a fraction of that family history as of Saturday, when he became a big part of it by beating Dunkle, a Ute senior from Colorado. Summerhays played very steady golf most of the day and saved himself with good putting when necessary. Dunkle outdrove him and usually hit iron shots closer to the hole, but he couldn’t get putts to drop and his short game was not as sharp.
Dunkle’s only long birdie putt came on the par-3 No. 15 in the afternoon, when it was basically too late. “That’s tough, when you’ve got an opponent who’s making putts pretty much from everywhere,” Dunkle said.
Summerhays won No. 4 in the morning round and maintained his lead for the remaining 30 holes. He was 2 up after 18 and stayed that way at the turn of the afternoon round, but wobbled with an out-of-bounds drive on the par-4 No. 10.
Summerhays then gave Dunkle another opening on the par-5 No. 11 by topping a 3-wood shot from the fairway, but Dunkle had mild tree trouble and couldn’t make a birdie. Dunkle bogeyed No. 13 from a greenside bunker (par-3 play hurt him all day) and failed to match Summerhays’ birdie on the par-4 No. 14, even after his drive ended up just short of the green.
Dunkle rallied with his birdie on No. 15, but had to lay up on No. 16 after driving into the rough on the right side. Summerhays also played his second shot short of the water — barely so, having used too much club. “A step in the wrong direction,” he said.
He could smile when he said that, having nearly holed his chip before making the winning birdie putt.
The oldest child of Barbara Jean and Boyd Summerhays gave his father/coach a nice present for his 39th birthday. Saturday hardly could have gone better than Boyd Summerhays dreamed. His star student, Tony Finau, shot a 66 to play his way into U.S. Open contention and his son won the State Am, rewarding his effort to hustle home from Shinnecock Hills to witness the match.
He intended to catch a late flight back to New York for Sunday’s final round, completing a weekend that forever will remain memorable to Utah’s best-known golf family.