Former BYU golfer Daniel Summerhays is establishing himself as one of the premier breakout players on tour this season. May 11, he finished 23rd in the PGA Tour’s Players Challenge.
Summerhays was a member of the BYU golf team from 2002 to 2003 and 2005 to 2007. He was a First-Team All-American his junior year for the Cougars and was ranked in the top 10 in the nation at the end of the year.
While at BYU, Summerhays was “at the top of the chart both academically and athletically,” according to men’s golf coach Bruce Brockbank. “He was as competitive and hard-working as you’ll ever find.”
Success has followed Summerhays wherever he has traveled. He won the Utah State Amateur Championship in 2000 and 2001 as a high school student, and his team won the state championship three times as a member of the golf team and once on the basketball team at Davis High School in Farmington.
Summerhays never imagined himself becoming a professional golfer. In fact, the golf course was simply a sanctuary for him to clear his mind and not worry about other things.
“In college it was kind of my escape to get away from the classroom,” he said on his website. “In high school, it was the same thing.”
In 2007, Summerhays won a Nationwide Tour event as an amateur, the first-ever amateur to win on that tour. He would have taken home $108,000 in that tournament as a professional but was required to forfeit the earnings because of his amateur status. He immediately turned pro, forgoing his senior season at BYU, and earned full exemption onto the Nationwide Tour through 2008 as a result of winning the event.
Summerhays’ first season on the Nationwide Tour was a bumpy one. He finished 113th on the tour’s money list, 35th in 2008, and after a disappointing year in 2009, he finished 81st on that same list. The top 25 golfers on the Nationwide Tour’s money list earn exemptions onto the PGA Tour the following season.
2010 was the year he broke through. Summerhays recorded seven top-10 finishes and three runner-up finishes to place fifth on the Nationwide Tour’s money list. This earned him an exemption for the entire 2011 season on the PGA Tour.
Summerhays had a disappointing finish in 2011, his first year on the PGA Tour. He made only eight cuts in 29 events, finishing 131st on the tour’s money list. As a result, he lost his membership and had to enter the PGA Tour’s “Q School,” where he was able to earn a place on tour for the 2012 season.
“It motivated him,” Brockbank said, speaking of Summerhays losing his PGA Tour membership. “He was really close. He’s playing at a level with guys who are really good. If you’re not at your best, you have to go back and do it (Q School) again.”
When asked about the difficulty of losing membership on the PGA Tour in a 2013 interview at the Wells Fargo Championship, Summerhays responded, “I mean, you’re playing against the top .01% in the world in your profession, so every year is a new experience. You have one year job security, and you have to go out and work as hard as everybody else or harder.”
Summerhays is enjoying the best year of his professional career on the PGA Tour this season with earnings of just under $1.2 million. He is currently ranked 47th on the tour’s money list, ahead of the world’s number-one golfer Tiger Woods, and ranked as the 96th best player in the world.
“He prepared himself at a young age for this,” Brockbank said. “He’s got a lot there. He’s made some great swing changes and is working with people and gaining confidence.”
Summerhays is hoping to maintain his position in the FedEx Cup, the PGA Tour’s end-of-the-year playoff system. He is currently 35th in the rankings, and the top 125 qualify for the playoffs. Summerhays admits, though, in an interview conducted on his website, his sights are set on much more than one or two good years as a professional.
“I’d like to be a regular on the PGA Tour. I want to win the Masters,” Summerhays said.