Midway • Of the 288 golfers who will tee it up next week in the 121st Utah State Amateur golf tournament, Grace Summerhays has her eye on one particular competitor she would like to run up against if she secures one of the coveted 64 spots for match play.
Summerhays, 14, wants a shot at the defending champion, who just happens to be her brother, 16-year-old Preston Summerhays.
“I have thought about that, yeah,” Grace said Tuesday after playing a practice round at 2019 tournament host Soldier Hollow Golf Club. “I think that would be really cool. I think it would be cool to play against him on a set stage, and see how I could compete against him, because he’s a great player, and I would like to compare my game to his.”
Grace became the youngest female golfer to make it to the State Am, and fourth female overall, last month by shooting a 1-over-par 73 on June 19 in a qualifying event at Glen Eagle Golf Course in Syracuse.
She was a few shots over that total Tuesday at Soldier Hollow’s Gold Course, while Preston, now 16, shot a 69 in breezy conditions as part of the Utah Golf Association’s Media Day at the 15-year-old course in the foothills above Midway.
“I would love to see her make match play,” Preston said. “She’s definitely got the game to do it.”
And if they happen to land on the same side of the bracket?
“That would be a lot of fun,” Preston said.
The siblings already play together almost every day of the week, and Grace said she wins her fair share of the time.
Tuesday, their proud grandfather, Lynn Summerhays, played as well and said he’s not the least bit surprised that Grace is already accomplishing great things in golf and poised to add to the family’s legacy in the longest continuously held golf tournament in the world.
“Grace is a wonderful person, so I am happy for anything that she achieves, because she is mature beyond on her years in relation to what is important,” Lynn Summerhays said. “She is delighted. This excites her. But she’s still really well-grounded. She has the maturity, mind and emotions well beyond a 14-year-old.”
Lynn Summerhays ran up against his brother, former PGA Tour player Bruce Summerhays, in the State Amateur’s semifinals in 1966, and the results weren’t pretty, he recalled. Bruce went on to win the tournament.
“I was thoroughly thrashed that day,” Lynn said.
Preston and Grace are the children of former PGA Tour player Boyd Summerhays, who is in Minnesota this week coaching his star pupil, Tony Finau, at the 3M Open on tour. Boyd played against his brother, Daniel Summerhays, in the 2001 State Am quarterfinals at Wasatch Mountain State Park, with Daniel prevailing before winning his second-straight championship in the event.
Of course, neither Preston nor Grace was alive then.
“Boyd has done a wonderful job with them, teaching them, interacting with them,” Lynn said. “The harmony that is there says it is all good. Grace can handle this without it causing her any damage emotionally, socially, or anything like that, because of the way her parents have brought her along.”
The siblings’ State Am tradition began when their great-grandfather, Pres Summerhays, competed in 1926. Another of Lynn’s grandchildren, Willard, competed last year.
Bruce’s grandson, Tyler Savage, also played in the tourney at Oakridge Country Club and lost to Preston in a match last year before Preston went on to become the youngest winner in State Am history. He was 15 at the time because the State Am was held in June last year.
The State Am means so much to the Summerhays siblings that they are bypassing Junior Worlds in San Diego to play in the event.
“It’s an awesome feeling just to be a part of it,” said Grace, who feels like she is part of a group of trailblazing women that includes Annie Thurman Young (2005), Naomi Soifua (2017) and Carly Dehlin-Hirsch (2018). “It has always been one of my main goals to play against the guys.”
One in particular, it appears.