FARMINGTON — When Daniel Summerhays saw the weather forecast was calling for windy conditions this week during the Utah Championship golf tournament, he couldn’t have been happier.
“I’m so glad that it’s windy,” he said after shooting a 68 Friday to go with his opening-round 66. “When the forecast came out, I kind of smiled and was pretty excited about it. I pride myself on being patient and thinking my way around the golf course, so I’m really happy that the wind’s up.”
The 35-year-old Farmington native said one of his good friends on the PGA Tour, Dicky Pride, used to joke “if it’s really difficult out, then you’re going to see Summerhays near the top of the leaderboard.”
That’s where Summerhays finds himself at the halfway point of the $725,000 tournament. After finishing his round shortly after noon, Summerhays was all alone in the lead with his 134 total, which would have only been good for a tie for 23rd place a year ago. By the end of the day, he was in a tie for second place with Joshua Creel, one stroke behind Tyrone Van Aswegen, a 37-year-old South African who’s played on the PGA Tour the last five years. Justin Lower is all alone in fourth at 137.
Because of the gusty conditions at Oakridge Country Club, scores are much higher than the last two years. In 2018, the cut was 5-under par, but came in at just even par 142 this year.
“I never would have thought, based on the last couple of years that I’d be leading right now at 8-under when 20-under (actually 17-under) was leading last year,” Summerhays said after his round. “I’m pretty pleased with that.”
Summerhays is trying to make his way back to the PGA Tour, where he played most of the past eight years before losing his exempt status. It’s been a struggle for him this year on the Korn Ferry Tour with just three made cuts in 15 tournaments, but he feels his game is gradually coming around.
“It’s a lot like whack-a-mole, it’s the best analogy that I have,” he said. “‘I’m not driving it well,' and you spend three weeks driving and you hit that mole down. Then it’s, ‘Oh man my chipping sucks’ and then you work on your chipping. You keep whacking these moles down. I feel like my putter is starting to come back into form and I feel like I have a decent handle on every part of my game right now. I’ll just keep playing the drums and this whack-a-mole game called golf.”
Putting has always been one of Summerhays’ strengths and after not concentrating on that part of his game for awhile, he’s seen improvement recently.
He sank an 18-footer for par at his first hole (No. 10) and made a 12-footer at his 17th hole to salvage a par after hitting his drive behind a tree. In between, he sank several good putts.
“My putting is what’s really started to come around,” he said. “I didn’t pay much attention to it for quite awhile.”
For the second straight day, Summerhays had a large following of friends, family and neighbors and he expects to have even more watching on the weekend.
“There’s still a lot of golf left to play,” he said. “But I’m very happy with my start and looking forward to the weekend. That’s why we play to get in those final couple groups and looking forward to doing (it) in front of my home crowd tomorrow.
Summerhays’ nephew, Preston Summerhays, a 16-year-old amateur playing on a sponsor’s exemption, was under the cut line for much of his round, but a couple of bogeys on his back nine hurt him as he shot a 71 and finished at 144, just two shots off the cut line
First-day leader Robert Garrigus fell back with a 73 Friday and is tied for 10th place with six other golfers. One of his playing partners, former Masters and U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, bogeyed the final hole and missed the cut by one shot.
Former BYU golfer and Orem resident Zac Blair had a strong finish and shot a 67 to move into a tie for fifth place with four other golfers at 136. Also making the cut was Park City professional Steele DeWald, whose 68 Friday put him at 140 in a tie for 23rd place.
Daniel Summerhays will tee off at 3:10 p.m. Saturday and will play with Van Aswegen, while Blair goes off at 2:30 p.m. with Trevor Cone, and DeWald tees off at 11:40 with Tyson Alexander.
Utah Championship leaderboard
Tyrone Van Aswegen: 133
Daniel Summerhays: 134
Joshua Creel: 134
Justin Lower: 135
Zac Blair: 136
Rob Oppenheim: 136
Luke Guthrie: 136
Lanto Griffin: 136
Kyle Westmoreland: 136