FARMINGTON — For Daniel Summerhays, his future in golf might be as simple as A-B-C. Or perhaps it’s a little more complicated, like A-B-C-D-E-F and G.
Summerhays is back in his old stomping grounds this week playing in the Korn Ferry Tour Utah Championship at Oakridge Country Club, just five minutes from his home. He’s sporting the same grin and sunny attitude he displayed 19 years earlier when he won the Utah State Amateur at the same golf course as a 16-year-old.
“It’s pretty emotional to be able to play at my home club in my hometown,” Summerhays said Monday after participating in a golf clinic on the Oakridge driving range before heading out to play in a pro-am.
“I’m enjoying the game a lot,” he said. “If golf wasn’t results-based I’d be on Cloud Nine.”
Unfortunately professional golf is results-based and unless Summerhays turns his game around soon, he won’t be making a living as a professional golfer much longer. And he’s the first to acknowledge that.
I’ve been playing some great rounds. It’s a fine line between making it or missing it. I feel pretty encouraged about my game. – Daniel Summerhays
He’s missed 12 of 15 cuts this year on the Korn Ferry Tour, which until a week ago was called the Web.com Tour, and he’s banked less than $10,000 all year. That’s after playing for eight years on the PGA Tour and earning just under $9 million. Last year when he only had partial status on the PGA Tour, he missed 13 of 19 cuts, including nine of his last 10.
However, the former Davis High and BYU golfer isn’t making excuses or feeling sorry for himself.
“I’ve got roads A, B, C, D, E, F in my mind,” said Summerhays, who then went through various scenarios for his future.
“Whether I win one of these next few tournaments and get my tour card back ... from that scenario to winning and I’m playing the Masters next April — I’ve got that scenario in my head. I’ve got ‘I’m going to go back to (Korn Ferry) Tour school and see if I can get my status back,’ to ‘Will I be playing some state opens next year?’ I’ve got A to F in order. My family life’s good, I feel good inside and honestly prepared for whatever life throws at me.”
Life’s thrown him a few curves in recent years after he appeared to be on his way to a long and successful career on the PGA Tour.
In 2015, he was on the verge of making the top 30 on the PGA Tour and qualifying for the season-ending Tour Championship, but missed out at the last possible moment and ended up 31st on the list. So he didn’t get the chance to play in the Tour Championship and automatically get in some big tournaments the following year, including the Masters.
He did make the Masters in 2017 thanks to a third-place finish at the PGA and a month later had a great chance at his first PGA Tour victory at the Memorial Tournament. But after leading going into the final round, he shot a 78 and ended up in a tie for 10th. Instead of a two-year exemption, he ended up falling out of the top 125 and lost his PGA Tour card after 2017.
As poor as his numbers have been over the past 12 months, Summerhays is optimistic about his game. He’s only missed the cut by one or two shots over the last two months and put a final-round 65 on the board just nine days ago in a tournament in Illinois.
“At any moment I can hit really good shots,” he said. “I’ve put some really good nine-hole scores together, even some 18-hole scores. I’ve been playing some great rounds. It’s a fine line between making it or missing it. I feel pretty encouraged about my game.”
He calls the Korn Ferry Tour “the second-best tour in the world” and points out that several players who have already won on the big tour are playing alongside him.
“You have hungry first-team All-Americans, world-beater prodigies who are playing this tour too,” he said. “The competition is deeper and deeper every single year and anybody who comes out and watches this week is going to see some really good golf.”
So if Summerhays isn’t able to start making cuts and eventually get back to the PGA Tour as he hopes, will he keep playing competitive golf?
“Competitive golf is plans A through F, and G, H, I, J, K is something in the golf industry like coaching or teaching,” he said.
Summerhays turned and pointed to the east during his interview, toward the new practice area at Oakridge.
“I helped design and finish this short game area and it’s going to be the finest in the state,” he said. “Once it’s all grown in, it has the potential to be one of the best practice facilities in the country."
Summerhays isn’t expecting to win this week just because he’s playing a course he’s played literally hundreds, perhaps thousands of times. He does know a victory would bring him closer to a return to the PGA Tour, but he’s not putting extra pressure on himself.
“I’d love to play really well for myself and the fans here,” he said. “I’ve been in the arena long enough to know I have nothing to prove to anybody. I feel good inside. But I’d definitely like to put on a good show and to play well.”