Farmington • Oakridge Country Club’s 18th hole, as the Korn Ferry Tour golfers play the course in the Utah Championship, completes the four-hole loop that Daniel Summerhays often would play in the evening with his father and older siblings as they grew to love golf.
Summerhays hoped to finish Thursday's opening round with something better than a bogey on that hole. Yet even after three-putting from just off the green and settling for a 5-under-par 66, he could feel only mild disappointment, considering he finished two strokes behind the leader, PGA Tour veteran Robert Garrigus. Justin Lower is second at 65.
“To make seven birdies and two bogeys on a windy day at Oakridge, I'm really happy,” Summerhays said.
That's reasonable. Thursday's scores were nothing like those of the previous two opening rounds of this event at Oakridge, thanks to winds that gusted beyond 20 mph. Two years ago, the course yielded 100 first-round scores in the 60s. This time? Only 30 players broke 70. Zac Blair, a former State Amateur winner like Summerhays, rallied from two early bogeys to post a 69. Park City's Steele DeWald, a Monday qualifier, birdied his last hole for a 72. Preston Summerhays, Daniel's nephew and the reigning State Am champion, shot a 73, making four straight bogeys after playing the front nine (the back nine for club members) in 2 under par.
Friday's 36-hole cut likely will come at even par, much higher than usual at Oakridge. Just making the cut would be an advancement for Daniel Summerhays, considering he has done so only three times in 15 starts this season. But after Thursday's performance, he's allowed to have bigger ambitions than merely playing the weekend rounds in front of his friends and relatives.
More than 100 people followed him Thursday in a rare homecoming appearance for the eight-year PGA Tour veteran. Not all of them were named Summerhays, but he recognized most of them – cousins, church friends, former Davis High School golf and basketball teammates and current pickleball opponents.
Asked about his emotions, Summerhays said, “I was excited, but calm about it, because I wanted to play well for them, so much. They're all a part of me. So it was a real neat experience to play one of my best rounds of the year in front of all those people that I love. It was good for my heart.”
And his career, potentially. Maintaining a tie for third would project him to No. 86 in the season standings, close to the top-75 checkpoint for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
Blair entered the week 62nd and needs a good showing to solidify his position, or even move toward the top 25 for automatic advancement to the PGA Tour. Blair was shocked when his birdie attempt slid past the hole on No. 9, judging by his audible reaction, yet he was not displeased with a 69 under the conditions.
“I was telling everybody, I've never seen it blow like this around here,” he said.
The wind actually helped Blair remain patient, knowing that scores would be not be very low. Garrigus’ 64 would have been nothing special in 2017, when there were two opening-round 62s, or last July, when eventual winner Cameron Champ started with a 61.
But his 64 looked awfully good Thursday, when he made eight birdies on his last 15 holes. Garrigus is playing in only his second tournament since completing the PGA Tour's three-month suspension after he tested positive for marijuana. He was using it for medicinal reasons, he said Thursday, but “I went over the limit and I got popped for it and I spent three months at home and I had to think about it. … It was actually a nice break, definitely refreshing.”
Garrigus entered the 2018-19 season with conditional status on the PGA Tour. He expects to get into the fields of the next five events on that tour, although a victory Sunday could alter his plans and make him pursue the Korn Ferry Tour schedule.