Farmington • Having grown up about a half-mile from the Lagoon amusement park, Daniel Summerhays is familiar with the Whac-A-Mole arcade game.
His best description of the nature of golf, trying to master so many different aspects of the game, is a comparison to hammering the rodents that pop up randomly. Asked about his ball-striking after Friday’s second round of the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank, Summerhays said, “I’d say I’ve hit it progressively better as the year’s gone on. But my putting is what’s finally starting to come around. I didn’t pay much attention to it for quite a while, because I was working so much on the ball-striking. Golf’s like Whac-A-Mole. That’s the best analogy I have. … You keep whacking these moles down. I feel like I have a decent handle on every part of the game now.”
His scores this week would say so, anyway. The former Davis High School and BYU golfer posted a 3-under-par 68 that moved him into a tie for second place at 8 under in the Korn Ferry Tour event at Oakridge Country Club. Tyrone Van Aswegen, a South African who's splitting his season between the PGA and Korn Ferry Tours, is the leader at 9 under after a second-round 65.
Zac Blair, from Fremont High and BYU, is tied for fifth at 6 under after shooting a 67. Having two Utahns in contention is pretty much all that the host Utah Sports Commission could have wanted as a setup for the weekend rounds. Blair made a tough 15-foot putt on No. 18 after a poor chip that left him muttering even after he finished the hole, but he figured the par save created more momentum.
“That's kind of the thing the first couple days, make sure you play well enough to get a late tee time going into the weekend,” Blair said.
Park City’s Steele DeWald, a Monday qualifier, easily made the cut by shooting a second-round 68, highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 No. 7. The only thing that could have completed the 36-hole story from a Utah perspective was if State Amateur champion Preston Summerhays, Daniel’s 16-year-old nephew, would have made the cut. But failing to birdie the par-5 No. 7 (his 16th hole of the day) basically ended his hopes, as he shot 73-71 and missed by two strokes, while being scouted by coaches from college golf powers Texas and Oklahoma State.
Daniel Summerhays made four birdies and one bogey Friday, giving himself a shot at a victory that would be monumental for multiple reasons. His own State Amateur title in 2000 is part of a remarkable family history at Oakridge, and the $131,500 winner's check would revive his career. Yet he said winning in front of his family and friends would mean more than any other rewards.
If that happens, “you'll probably see me cry,” he said. “A lot of emotion would pour out. … So I'm excited the next couple days to test my skill sets.”
Summerhays and Blair both hope the wind keeps blowing at uncharacteristic levels when they tee off in the mid-afternoon Saturday. “I pride myself in being able to stay patient [and] think my way around the golf course, so I'm really happy when the wind's up,” Summerhays said.
The wind's effect is significant. Last July at Oakridge, Cameron Champ (who's second in this week's PGA Tour event in Detroit) stood 17 under after two rounds on his way to the title. And the cut came at 5 under par. This year, golfers shooting even par advanced to the weekend rounds.
“Conditions always dictate what the scores are going to be like,” Van Aswegen said.
Van Aswegen's PGA Tour conditional status makes a schedule difficult to plan. “You just have to play well when you get in,” he said, “and I haven't done that.”
That’s true of his performances on both tours, but this week could be different, as he tries to spoil Summerhays’ homecoming game.