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This kid rocks

16-year-old Summerhays wins tourney

FARMINGTON — Daniel Summerhays hasn't won a single junior tournament of the half dozen he's competed in locally so far this summer.

Yet somehow, the 16-year-old was able to beat the best amateur golfers in Utah at the annual Men's State Amateur golf tournament while becoming the youngest golfer in 83 years to win the prestigious title.

Summerhays defeated defending champion Billy Harvey 6 and 5 in their scheduled 36-hole final Sunday at Oakridge Country Club to become the youngest winner since the legendary George Von Elm won at the age of 15 back in 1917.

So how did young Summerhays pull off such a remarkable feat?

Don't ask him.

"I don't really understand why this has happened to me," said the polite youngster who just barely got his driver's license. "I am very blessed. I am so lucky. This is so amazing."

Amazing is right. Summerhays, who besides being one of the youngest players in the field, was probably the smallest at just 5 1/2 feet and 140 pounds. He prevailed over perhaps the best amateur field in State Am history, a 150-man field that included eight former champions, some two dozen collegiate players and probably 100 golfers who have been playing competitive golf longer than Summerhays has been alive.

After five arduous days, young Summerhays was the last player standing in the granddaddy of Utah golf tournaments as he survived nearly 140 holes against the best competition the state has to offer.

In Sunday's finale when he was the more likely golfer to fold under the pressure, he played the round of his young life, while the experienced Harvey, who had won nine straight matches over the past two years, wilted like a flower in the noonday sun.

With five of his six siblings watching along with several cousins, in-laws, neighbors and friends, Summerhays played like a veteran rather than a 16-year-old kid. Before this week, he had never even broken 71 at Oakridge, but he shot better than that in the morning 18 and was on track for about a 66 or 67 in the afternoon, standing 5-under-par when the match ended after 13 holes.

Summerhays enjoyed somewhat of a home-course advantage at Oakridge, where he has played most of his life. But like his father, Lynn, who was a huge help as his caddy all week, pointed out, it may not have been much of an advantage on greens that were much faster than Daniel had ever played before.

A large contingent, many still dressed in their Sunday best, came out to cheer Summerhays, who lives not far from the Oakridge Country Club. Daniel is the youngest of seven children and is affectionately known as "Biscuit." One of his biggest fans is older brother, Boyd, who was a much more celebrated golfer at a similar age, but who was ousted in the first round of the tournament. Boyd provided Daniel with a lucky Oklahoma State hat that he wore Saturday and put on midway through his round Sunday.

Harvey is a Las Vegas native who has been a regular on the BYU golf team for three years and had the experience of last year's State Am victory at Hill Air Force Base. He may have been a bit overconfident Sunday after getting a scouting report from BYU teammate Manuel Merizalde, who had lost to Summerhays the day before in the quarterfinals.

"Manuel told me they both shot about 4-over, so I wasn't expecting (Summerhays) to take it too low," said Harvey. "But I give him credit — he didn't make too many mistakes today."

Harvey jumped on top in the morning as expected, moving out to a 3-up advantage through 16 holes. His putter was working and he was hitting it close, as on the par-5 11th where he made eagle. Summerhays' only bogey of the entire day came at No. 15.

But the match turned at the 17th hole just after Summerhays donned the black "OSU Cowboys" hat, when he sank a 12-foot putt for birdie. Then when Harvey bogeyed at 18, Summerhays went into the lunch break just one down with momentum on his side.

He tied it up with a birdie at No. 1 and quickly took the lead for good, running off wins at the 3rd and 4th holes with pars as Harvey's game began to deteriorate. Summerhays won with birdies at 5 and 6 and moved the advantage to 5-up at No. 10 when Harvey couldn't get up and down from a bunker.

Harvey appeared ready to win his first hole since the morning round at the 11th when he hit his approach shot to within five feet. But after Summerhays lagged up to gimme range for the umpteenth time, Harvey slid his hard-breaking eagle putt below the hole.

A clearly frustrated Harvey stayed on the green to practice putting, then took off his hat and crouched by himself trying to collect his thoughts. But his body language clearly showed that he knew it was over.

The two players halved No. 12 and Summerhays closed the match in classic fashion at the par-3 13th, hitting a 6-iron to within four feet and sinking the birdie putt. A few minutes later he was accepting the large silver trophy, acting almost embarrassed as the gallery cheered for him.

Incredibly, Harvey didn't win any of the final 15 holes, as his putter deserted him.

"I just didn't make any putts in the afternoon," he said. "My putter felt like a driver in my hands. I had no feel at all."

Harvey said his afternoon round was the worst he'd played in a year, since the week after he won last year's State Am. He's hoping he'll turn the tables this year and play his best at this week's U.S. Public Links tournament in Oregon, where he has a chance to get into the Masters with a victory.

Meanwhile, Summerhays said he doesn't want to "get ahead of myself" and he planned to go back to work on his game at Oakridge Monday morning. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday he'll compete in a junior tournament in Salt Lake County.

Who knows, maybe this week the State Am champ will finally beat up on some golfers his own age for a change.

E-MAIL: sor@desnews.com