If Daniel Summerhays could have stared his golf ball into making a couple more revolutions on the final two holes in the PGA Championships, his world would have changed in a matter of 30 minutes.
Still, it has changed.
Summerhays’ five birdies on the final seven holes, part of a blistering final round 66, gave him a third-place finish, good for $670,000 and an automatic invitation to play in the 2017 prestigious Masters Tournament in Augusta next April. It kind of did change his summer.
Summerhays had birdie and eagle putts crawl to the edge of the cup in his final two holes. They looked dead on line. They looked good. He’d judged the pace, made the right read, did basically all he needed to win the tournament, or send it into a playoff except get the orb to drop. If he had, it certainly would have put pressure on eventual winner Jimmy Walker and runner-up Jason Day. As it was, he was the leader in the clubhouse at 10-under par for a long time and finished alone in third.
Those who know Summerhays absolutely believe he belongs and his time is coming. He limits mistakes, he is consistent, he can hit the ball straight and keep it in play. He’s got a nice short game and when his flat iron is hot, he has chances to get it done.
This year, Summerhays has had two top 10 finishes in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. That looms large.
“There are many reasons that kid is so successful,” said his college coach Bruce Brockbank at BYU. “For one, he has a belief in himself and his plan that is unmatched. He will outwork you and is one of the most determined men I’ve ever been around.”
Brockbank has been getting reports from his national contacts around the country that Summerhays is close to busting things open. “The guys at Ping Golf Company have been telling me since April that he is getting really good and it shows. You won’t meet a finer man anytime, anywhere.”
Nick Becker, a former Cougar golfer who served a stint as assistant women’s golf coach at BYU, turned professional and got his amateur status back, is among a group of friends who frequents Summerhays' new home near his hometown of Farmington.
Becker caddied for Summerhays when he was on the Web.com Tour, traveling through a grueling schedule during summer heat when lesser men would have wilted under either the conditions, challenge or competition.
It’s easy to see why Summerhays finished third and almost won, said Becker.
“Daniel is the hardest worker out there,” Becker says.
“When I caddied for him for a while, he would practice all the time. It was summer time in the Midwest. Hot and humid was par for the course. Most players would pack it in after the round. Danny would head straight for the range or putting green and we might be there for hours more. He always wants to improve every part of his game. He is focused on all aspects of improving, and it’s only a matter of time before he wins. His game is built for the long haul.”
At one point this season, Summerhays ranked 115th in the World Golf standings. With his T3, he moved from 89th to 53rd. With his showing in the season’s final major, he moved from 57th to 39th in FedEx Cup Standings. He moved from 76th to 40th on the PGA Tour money list at $1.89 million, just ahead of Charles Howell III and Louis Oosthuizen.
In this final major, Summerhays finished the week No. 2 in strokes gained putting.
His final round 66 was among the best efforts of the week at the PGA Championship. His blistering 65 at Oakmont in the U.S. Open was one of the best rounds of that week on a course many believe is the toughest in the world. Those two rounds in majors, specifically set up to separate and challenge the best golfers on the planet from one another, is evidence of Summerhays’ skill and acumen.
It’s easy to be a fan of Daniel Summerhays.
Tough to decide what stands out more, his hard work, play or character.