Preston Summerhays comes from long line of elite players

USGA/Darren Carroll

Preston Summerhays comes from long line of elite players

Junior

Preston Summerhays comes from long line of elite players

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17-year-old U.S. Junior Amateur champ has a youthful swagger all his own

Boyd Summerhays has one of those cute, oversized headcovers of a sunflower in his office, and he used to tease his oldest son, Preston, that it  really belonged on his driver.

“I’d give him a hard time that whenever there is a little wind – call it adversity – his petals fall right off,” Boyd says.

But after the way Preston, 17, knocked off then-No. 1-ranked junior Akshay Bhatia in the Round of 16 at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship and rallied on July 20 from a 4-down deficit to defeat Bo Jin of China 2 and 1 in the 36-hole final at Inverness Club in Ohio, he proved he’s no drooping sunflower.

In fact, Preston has earned a new nickname: “Ruthless P.” Preston, it’s worth noting, also answers to P Swags, and while it may be hard to pinpoint exactly when and where this newfound swagger came to life, there are several unmistakable examples.

Look no further than last summer when Preston stood on the first tee at Victory Ranch Golf Club in Utah and his “Uncle Tony” proposed playing banker, a gambling game where the banker is always the person that holed out first with the lowest score on the previous hole and gets to determine the next bet.

Uncle Tony is Tony Finau, World No. 14 and a member of the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup team. Finau is a pupil of Boyd’s, and he and Preston have played hundreds of rounds together. But Finau didn’t want to dip too deep into his young protégé’s pocket, so he set the bank at $5 and a max of $10.

Preston, however, had other ideas.

“After the first hole, I started tripling and quadrupling the bet,” Summerhays recalls. “Pretty soon, we were playing for hundreds of dollars and at the end of the day I won like $500.”

Kids these days: Summerhays didn’t go on a spending spree at the mall, but rather took a picture of his cold-hard cash and posted it on social media. Finau laughs off his loss – and the dent to his billfold – preferring instead to muse on the larger meaning of Preston’s fast-improving game, which will be on display in Australia this December as a member of the U.S. side in the Junior Presidents Cup and the 2020 U.S. Open thanks to an exemption awarded to the U.S. Junior champ.

“It told me he’s not scared to play against anybody,” Finau says. “He believes in himself and has the confidence to accomplish great things.”

In October, Summerhays verbally committed to take his game to the next level as part of the Class of 2021 at Arizona State.

“ASU and Coach Thurmond is the right fit for me,” Preston says. “I am able to have my team of family, coach, trainers and equipment close by that has helped me develop as a person and player and am excited to play for one of the top teams in the country.”

Preston is the latest in a long line of golfers in the Summerhays family to leave a mark in the game. It was nearly 25 years ago that Boyd was the next big thing. He won three Junior World Championships (age 10, 14 and 16), was a four-time AJGA All-American and 1995 Golfweek/Titleist Junior Player of the Year before starring at Oklahoma State with teammates Charles Howell III and Bo Van Pelt.

From 2004-06, Boyd competed in 29 PGA Tour events, but he suffered a herniated disc in his back, ligament damage to his thumb and required surgery on his hip. There was also the time in 2005 when he was at a restaurant and a rack of plates fell and broke his foot. Boyd competed in the pro ranks through 2012, when he decided to pursue a teaching career at McDowell Mountain Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he’s the director of instruction, and spend summers at Davis Park Golf Course in Fruit Heights, Utah.

That Boyd would make a name for himself in coaching PGA Tour pros should come as no surprise given that coaching is in his blood.

His grandfather, Pres, was the men’s head golf coach at the University of Utah. His father, Lynn, played collegiate golf and for several years served as president of the Utah Junior Golf Association. Boyd’s uncle, Bruce Summerhays, was a three-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions and named coach of the year in the Pac-12 during a brief stint at Stanford, and his daughter, Carrie, Boyd’s cousin, is a former LPGA Tour player and current head women’s golf coach at BYU.

Last but not least, Boyd’s younger brother, Daniel, joined the PGA Tour in 2011 and is still chasing his first victory there. (This season he has status on the Korn Ferry Tour.)

Preston’s siblings aren’t far behind him. Sister Grace, 15, made the Round of 16 at the U.S. Girls’ Junior this summer (with Preston on the bag), and Cameron, 11, wants to be good too.

Golf is a way of life for the Summerhays family, who are Utah golf royalty, and by the time Preston was 3 years old he wielded a cut-down driver and putter and Boyd would bring a loaf of bread and let Preston ride around with him on the cart as he practiced all day.

They were inseparable. In Boyd’s final season as a touring pro in 2012, his caddie succumbed to heat exhaustion at the Saskatchewan Open. When told by a rule’s official that there was no minimum age for a caddie, Preston, 10, filled in for the final three rounds.

Preston Summerhays, 10, on the bag for his dad at the Saskatchewan Open. Courtesy Summerhays Family.

“We have these pictures where his caddie bib is down to his shins,” Boyd says. But despite his son’s love of the game, Boyd held him out of playing youth tournaments. He didn’t want Preston to grow up with regrets that he’d only tried golf.

“So I actually enrolled him in every activity except golf competitively,” Boyd explains. “Then, one day, he said, ‘Dad, when do I get to play my own tournaments?’ That was it.”

In addition to Finau, Boyd’s students on the Tour include Hunter Mahan, Wyndham Clark and brother Daniel, who recently was a Monday qualifier at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier but missed the cut. Preston has shot lower than them all for 18 with the exception of Finau, who he has tied on occasion. And how about beating his father?

“The first time made me so mad,” Preston says as he begins to recount the story of that fateful day when he was 15. “We played 18 holes, but it wasn’t dark yet, so dad said, ‘We’re going to keep playing.’ I was 2 or 3 up, and he’s trying to get inside my head. As soon as he was leading, he said, ‘OK, we’re done. Let’s go.’ So, technically I didn’t beat him for the day, but I had the low round.” Boyd competed in the U.S. Junior four times but never advanced past the quarterfinals. He hoisted trophies at every big tournament in Utah – including the Utah Open in 2002 – but the Utah Amateur eluded him. When Preston became its youngest champion at age 15 in 2018, it took less than five minutes to ask his dad, “How many Utah State Amateurs did you win?” Ruthless P, indeed. “He knew the answer,” Boyd says with a smile. “It’s really fun for me to see my kids doing things that I didn’t do. That’s everything you want as a parent. It’s like the greatest feeling in the world.”

Nothing may match the pride Boyd felt when Preston hoisted a wedge on the 35th hole of the U.S. Junior final from 174 yards out of the rough and over a tree to 10 feet.

It was a shot he couldn’t have hit a year ago before working with a trainer, sprouting four inches, packing on 35 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame and gaining about 14 mph in clubhead speed (which translates to 30-40 yards off the tee).

He buried the putt to clinch the match and before long sank into a bear hug from his dad in a moment he’ll never forget.

“It was like, we did it,” Preston says. “It was one of those super-special moments. Gwk

This story first appeared in the October issue of the Golfweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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