Farmington • Daniel Summerhays’ walk to Oakridge Country Club’s 18th green hardly went the way he pictured it Sunday, with the Utah Championship’s playoff contestants already riding in carts toward the tee before he even finished his round.
Kristoffer Ventura’s ending was better than anything he could have imagined as of early June, when he rarely had opportunities to play in Korn Ferry Tour events. Ventura parred the third playoff hole to beat Wyoming native Joshua Creel and earn $130,500 in only his fourth event of the tour’s schedule as a rookie from Oklahoma State.
Summerhays finished sixth on his boyhood course and Zac Blair, another former BYU golfer, tied for 11th. Having started the final round in a tie for the lead, Summerhays closed with a 1-under-par 70 that included some birdie attempts that barely slid past the hole on the back nine as he finished two strokes out of the playoff. “I felt like I had a chance, the whole day,” Summerhays said. “I felt like this was going to be a storybook tale.”
Summerhays walked away from Oakridge feeling as satisfied as he could without having won, saying he was proud of his showing for fans who will “forever know that ‘D. Summerhays’ can still play and perform at a high level” after he had made just three cuts in 15 previous starts this year. Yet he still never has held one of those oversized winner’s checks in 13 seasons as a professional golfer.
Ventura’s 66-65 weekend lifted him above a pack of golfers, with seven players tied for the lead at one stage Sunday. Creel, who transferred from Colorado to Central Oklahoma after attending Cheyenne (Wyo.) Central High School, posted a 67 with an 18th-hole birdie that tied him with Ventura at 14 under par for 72 holes.
The latest element of Ventura’s multilayered story involves how he underwent an emergency appendectomy last fall just before the final stage of the tour’s qualifying tournament, effectively ending his hopes of advancing. “It was brutal,” he said Sunday. “I never got over what happened before Q-school until a couple weeks ago. … Obviously, where I am now is completely different.”
Ventura capitalized on a sponsor exemption with a tie for third in a recent tournament in South Carolina, giving him access to more events. Born in Mexico, he moved with his family to Norway at age 12 and played for Oklahoma State’s 2018 NCAA championship team.
That experience helped him in Sunday’s playoff. The golfers each parred No. 18 (No. 9 for Oakridge members) twice, then Creel’s poor drive on No. 10 led to a bogey that gave Ventura the title. Ventura jumped to No. 17 in the season standings; the top 25 players as of mid-August will receive PGA Tour cards.
Blair’s final-round 67 with an 18th-hole birdie moved him to No. 53, even though he was frustrated and acknowledged that his way of responding to selected shots needs improvement. “I just got pretty down on myself, more a product of feeling like I was doing really well, hitting good shots and none of them turning out [well],” he said. “Same thing with the putter.”
Monday qualifier Steele DeWald of Park City tied for 41st with a closing 73, missing the top-25 finish he needed to earn a spot in the tour’s next event in western New York. Blair is headed there; Summerhays is sticking to his planned schedule, after moving to No. 107 in the standings. That gives him a shot at the top 75 and a berth in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals that offer PGA Tour access for 2019-20. But he’ll play in only one of the next four events and will have to make up considerable ground in three tournaments to conclude the regular season.
The Utah Championship will go into the books as both a breakthrough and a missed opportunity for Summerhays, but he’ll mostly remember the good stuff. “I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to play so well in front of my home crowd,” he said.
He attracted the biggest following in the tour’s 30-year history in Utah, at four venues. The convergence of Summerhays’ dropping down from the PGA Tour in 2019 and Oakridge’s hosting the event for a third year drove considerable interest in Davis County. In his winner’s speech, Ventura joked about the bulk of the fans leaving before the playoff ended, but he was happy to be holding the Billy Casper Cup.
• In his fourth start on the Korn Ferry Tour, Kristoffer Ventura pars the third playoff hole Sunday to beat Joshua Creel in the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank at Oakridge Country Club.
• Utah natives Daniel Summerhays (sixth) and Zac Blair (tied for 11th) combine for one of the best home-state showings in the event’s history, dating to 1990.
• Monday qualifier Steele DeWald of Park City ties for 41st with a closing 73, missing the top-25 finish he needed to earn a spot in the tour’s next event.