Utah Championship News
Former teen phenoms now at varying stages of pro golf
Wednesday, 08 September 2010 00:00
Just in case Daniel Summerhays needs any reminder of what’s available to him in the last two months of the Nationwide Tour schedule, a gold sign adorns his parking spot at Willow Creek Country Club.
The color identifies the players in the top 25 of the season’s money list, eligible for promotions to the PGA Tour in 2011.
He’s right there, and he knows it.
“I’ve felt a little more pressure,” Summerhays said, “because I’m so close.”
To reach the $200K mark, the traditional checkpoint for advancement, Summerhays (No. 15) needs to make about $20,000 in the remaining eight tournaments, including this week’s Utah Championship.
Ten years after winning his first of two Utah State Amateur titles, the former Davis High School and BYU golfer is about to become the first Utahn to play his way onto the big tour this way. The alternative is the demanding PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, which is how Summerhays’ brother Boyd once succeeded.
“Everything has to work in your favor, it really does,” said Daniel Summerhays, 26. “Things have to fall into place.”
Tony Finau understands. If any Utah golfer ever developed faster than the Summerhays brothers, it is Finau, who also won a State Am title at 16 and turned pro at 17 as a West High School senior. Now, about to turn 21 next week, he’s stuck in the vast wasteland of the game, looking for places to play.
A sponsor exemption into the Utah Championship is a start, but only if Finau makes the most of it.
That’s what makes Summerhays’ story so remarkable. After his junior year at BYU in 2007, Summerhays was among the All-America golfers invited to play in a new Nationwide Tour event in Columbus, Ohio. He won. Three years later, that’s the origin of his current 15th-place standing, enabling him to play regularly.
So to say Summerhays is where he is because he attended college and Finau is where he is because he skipped college is not a fully satisfactory explanation. Summerhays has had no more Q-school success than Finau; he just took advantage of his access in a way that no other amateur has done in the tour’s 21-year history.
His BYU experience was valuable in terms of building a relationship with coach Bruce Brockbank, still a close friend and mentor. Yet partly because he was a devoted student, college golf was a grind for Summerhays and the experience was “not really representative of what this life is out here,” he said. “So I think it’s more what you learn from your coach, the work ethic you develop, not necessarily college golf tournaments. You make of the circumstances what you can.”
If they had not turned pro, Summerhays and Finau would have been BYU teammates for a year. Finau’s incentive revolved around endorsement and equipment deals, but playing opportunities have been fewer than he imagined, “mostly because I didn’t play as well as I needed to,” he said.
In college, “I don’t think I would have learned the things I did learn,” Finau said.
Finau barely missed some life-changing chances, fading in the final round of The Ultimate Game competition that offered a $2 million first prize and finishing second in Golf Channel’s “Big Break,” offering tournament exemptions.
“A couple bad bounces here and there … I had those tournaments right in my grasp,” he said. “I couldn’t finish, but I took positives out of those instead of thinking too negatively, because that’s not going to get me anywhere.”
Summerhays is taking the same approach to his success, not allowing the pressure of completing his graduation requirements to wear him down. “I’m right on the brink … I’m going to smile all the way to the tour,” he said.
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