There is a young golfer out there grinding it out on the mini-tours who reminds Utah’s Tony Finau of himself.
So when Finau got the chance to throw in his two cents regarding who should receive an unrestricted sponsor exemption into the Utah Championship next week, he suggested Peyton White, a former Ohio University golfer from Davidson, North Carolina.
Finau’s wish has been granted.
In a news conference Monday at Oakridge Country Club, once again the site of this year’s Korn Ferry Tour event in Utah, officials announced that White and former Oklahoma golfer Quade Cummins will receive unrestricted sponsor exemptions.
White “has had full status on PGA TOUR Canada,” said Jeff Robbins, President and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission, which hosts the tournament with Zions Bank as the presenter. “Tony said he is one of the longest hitters on the tour …. I think Tony sees a little bit of himself in Peyton.”
Cummins, meanwhile, recently competed in the PGA Tour’s 3M Open in Minnesota (he shot 74-71 and missed the cut) and was on the USA Walker Cup team.
Robbins announced that one of the two restricted exemptions will go to former UNLV golfer Andres Gonzales, who won the event in 2014 when it was held at Willow Creek Country Club in Sandy.
“Quite a character, had the big mustache, as you remember,” Robbins said of Gonzales. “Long hair, interesting guy.”
On hand to talk about his own participation in the tournament, former BYU golfer and PGA Tour regular Daniel Summerhays backed Robbins’ description of Gonzales, who hails from the Seattle area.
“We could FaceTime him right now, and he would be a hoot,” Summerhays said. “He’s one of the good ones … They don’t come any better than him.”
Robbins said the fourth and final exempted player will be announced later this week, or next.
The tournament begins on Aug. 5 at Oakridge and runs through Aug. 8 with a field of 156 players. Monday qualifying is at Talons Cove Golf Course in Saratoga Springs. The purse is $600,000 again this year.
Robbins also announced that Zions Bank will remain the presenting sponsor and the Utah Championship will remain at Oakridge CC in Farmington through the 2023 tournament, with both entities having recently inked three-year extensions.
The Utah Championship won’t be televised by the Golf Channel this year because of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. However, Robbins said that PGA Tour productions is working on a piece on Utah golf that will air before the BMW Championship next month.
“It has been great watching this event evolve, grow, and become a staple on the Korn Ferry Tour schedule,” said Hal Geyer, a tour rules official who also spoke at the news conference. “We are very excited to be back.”
Summerhays, who placed second last year after being eliminated with a bogey on the first playoff hole in a three-way playoff to eventual winner Kyle Jones and Paul Haley II, won’t be the only Utahn in the field.
Former BYU golfer Patrick Fishburn, from Ogden, is a Korn Ferry Tour regular and will also compete — along with any Utahns who make it through the Monday qualifying.
“This is one of my favorite weeks of the year, something I circle on the calendar,” Fishburn said, after finishing in a tie for 36th place last year. “I love playing in Utah. I love playing in this event.”
Summerhays memorably posted a 62 in the final round last year to reach the playoff, after starting the final day six strokes behind the co-leaders.
Having announced his retirement from full-time tour golf earlier in the year, he became a teacher at his alma mater, Davis High School, and coached the Darts’ boys golf team to a second-place finish in last fall’s 6A state championships.
Monday, he said he has retired from coaching and teaching and will take some time next month “when my kids will be going back to school, but I won’t,” to decide what he will do next.
“I am a bright, shining, burned-out star in that,” he joked of his teaching/coaching career, saying that he found out the time commitment was too much for a person who has to give his all in everything he does.
“I found out that time-wise, I was almost gone more than when I was traveling the Tour,” he said. “It was just my personality. I wanted to do it so well that I put so much time into it.”