UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — Over the years, the U.S. Open has usually featured golfers with Utah ties, with as many as a half-dozen playing in the same year.
But those “Utah” golfers have usually been former BYU stars, such as Johnny Miller, Mike Weir or Keith Clearwater or transplanted Utahns, such as Billy Casper or Dan Forsman.
It’s rare for at least two native-born Utahns to be playing in the same U.S. Open as is the case this week when Daniel Summerhays and Tony Finau tee it up at Chambers Bay Golf Course, here in Washington.
The last time it happened was in 1989 when St. George’s Jay Don Blake and Salt Lake’s Eric Hogg were among six golfers who played at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. That was the year that Blake contended until the final day, finishing in a tie for 18th while Hogg, who made it through local and sectional qualifying, missed the cut.
Summerhays grew up in Fruit Heights and attended Davis High School before taking his talents to BYU. While he was in high school, he won the Utah State Amateur title twice, becoming the youngest winner in 2000 at the age of 16.
Finau grew up in the Rose Park area of Salt Lake, taking up the game at the age of 7 after his younger brother, Gipper, started playing by hitting balls in the garage of their family home. By the time he was 12, Finau won a Junior World title. At age 16, he won the State Amateur title, defeating Summerhays, shortly after he returned from an LDS Church mission in 2006.
Both players are staying close to their Utah roots.
Summerhays just built a home in Fruit Heights near where he grew up while Finau has a house in Lehi. Summerhays and his wife Emily have four children (the oldest is 7 and the youngest 9 months) while Finau and his wife Alyna have three children under the age of three, including a 2-month-old.
Any Utahns or fans of the two Utah golfers, won’t have a problem following Finau and Summerhays the first two days of the tournament as the duo will be playing just three groups apart.
Finau and Summerhays both tee off in the afternoon off the No. 1 tee as Finau starts his round at 2:44 p.m. MT with fellow Americans Bo Van Pelt (Oklahoma) and Charlie Beljan (Arizona) while Summerhays is two groups back at 3:06 p.m. MT with Thomas Aiken of South Africa and Danny Lee of New Zealand.
While Summerhays has one previous appearance in a U.S. Open — 2010 at Pebble Beach — Finau will be playing in his first major tournament.
“It’s a pretty special moment for me and my family to finally be here and just have an opportunity to play at the highest level — hopefully, the first of many,’’ Finau said.
While Finau got his first looks at the Chambers Bay Golf Course the last three days, he’s hoping to have a couple of advantages over fellow golfers.
For one, his caddie Greg Bodine grew up near the golf course and knows it well.
“I’m going to have some local knowledge from him,’’ Finau said.
The other is the fact that length could be at a premium with some drivable par-4s and three par-4s measuring over 500 yards, the longest in U.S. Open history.
“That could play to my advantage because of the length, so I like that,’’ said Finau, the third longest driver on the PGA Tour at 307 yards.
The biggest problem for Finau has been the waiting, which you could say has been going on for 18 years since he first picked up a club.
“I’m looking forward to getting there and feeling the atmosphere of a major championship,’’ he said with a big smile.