Farmington • Daniel Summerhays stood on Oakridge Country Club’s No. 14 tee, analyzing the angles of a drive he has hit hundreds of times, while studying a yardage book as if he had just arrived on the site.
Everything about the Utah Championship venue is familiar to him, yet different. The hole numbers are all changed this week (except in this story), with the nines reversed for the Korn Ferry Tour event that starts Thursday. Otherwise, all the landmarks are recognizable.
There’s the pond in front of the No. 6 tee, where Summerhays once splashed a golf cart during a twilight race around the course. There’s the No. 13 green, where he completed a match-play championship in the 2000 State Amateur as a 16-year-old. There’s the Maverik on Shepard Lane, where the promise of post-golf ice cream lured him from playing with Legos in his childhood house, 2 miles from the course. And there’s the three-green, short-game practice area that he recently designed adjacent to the No. 9 fairway.
No wonder playing at Oakridge is so emotional for him, never mind the season-saving opportunity it offers.
“I’d love to play well for myself, for the fans here,” he said before teeing off Monday in the Tony Finau Foundation’s pro-am event, “but I’ve been in the arena long enough that I have nothing to prove to anybody. I feel good inside. But I definitely would like to put on a good show.”
Summerhays needs a strong performance, at this stage. As he stood on the Oakridge driving range, he could picture himself holding the Billy Casper Cup on Sunday, creating all kinds of career possibilities.
That would be a remarkable turnaround in a season when the former Davis High School and BYU golfer has made only three 36-hole cuts in 15 starts, earning less than $10,000 and ranking 162nd. He’ll have to do something extraordinary in the next two months just to make the top 75 and play in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. If not, he’ll go to the qualifying tournament, in hopes of returning to this level. And if he fails there … OK, that’s getting ahead of the story.
Yet that's the reality of pro golf. PGA Tour winners get the equivalent of multiyear contracts. Everyone else is playing from season to season, as Summerhays succeeded in doing for eight years as a PGA Tour member, until his game unraveled in 2017-18. And now, at age 35, any number of avenues are in play for Summerhays.
“I'm prepared for whatever life throws at me,” he said. “Competitive golf is plan A through F; H, I, J, K is something within the golf industry, whether that's teaching [or] coaching.”
UTAHNS’ TEE TIMES
Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank
Thursday at Oakridge Country Club, Farmington
Zac Blair, 8:25 a.m. (No. 10).
Preston Summerhays*, 9:15 a.m. (No. 1).
Daniel Summerhays, 1:20 p.m. (No. 1).
Steele DeWald**, 2:30 p.m. (No. 10).
Golf Channel coverage: 4-7 p.m. daily.
So he’s not planning to ask the Korn Ferry executive search firm to help plot his next move, or put his BYU finance degree to everyday use. Earnings of nearly $10 million between the PGA Tour and the former Web.com Tour give him some security and options, as Summerhays and his wife, Emily, raise four children of ages 4 to 11 in nearby Fruit Heights.
"I don't know how much longer I'll play professional golf, I honestly don't," Summerhays said in 2017. "Because if my family needs me to be there, I will.”
That attitude remains intact, but he has overcome a phase where “I definitely got burned out there for a while with travel; hated leaving home,” he said this week. He wants to keep playing, at the highest level available to him.
“I am enjoying the game a lot,” Summerhays said. “If golf wasn't results-based, I would be on cloud nine. I feel like at any moment I can hit really, really good shots.”
He would love to produce a bunch of them this week, when it really counts.