Throughout the remainder of the holiday season, we will provide a look back at some of the best content from our writers at Global Golf Post Plus. This article originally published on Nov. 19. Enjoy.
Golf has always had prominent families. From the Morrises, Parks and Auchterlonies to the Harmons, Joneses and Loves. It’s a game that by its very familial nature can become part of a clan’s DNA.
Paying attention to recent headlines, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more ubiquitous golf name than Summerhays. In July alone …
- Daniel Summerhays planned his retirement then shot a Sunday 62 to get into a playoff at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Utah Championship;
- Daniel’s older brother, Boyd Summerhays, was on the bag of his star student, Tony Finau, as he made a run at winning the PGA Tour’s 3M Championship;
- Boyd’s son, reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champ Preston Summerhays, won the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur;
- and Preston’s little sister, Grace Summerhays, matched her brother’s feat in the men’s ranks by becoming the youngest winner of the Utah Women’s State Am.
Meanwhile, former LPGA player Carrie Summerhays Roberts continues coaching the BYU women’s golf team with her famous father, Bruce Summerhays, pitching in as a “senior” assistant of sorts. Bruce’s sons, Joe and Bruce Jr., are both club pros, with Joe currently leading the Utah Section player of the year points standings.
The first family of Utah golf may be growing into America’s most prominent golf brand.
“That’s what it seems like,” Daniel said of the seemingly weekly focus on one Summerhays or another. “When you do look back and write it all down and do the family tree, it’s pretty amazing where we’re all at in the golfing industry.”
• • •
The Summerhays family’s healthy obsession with golf began roughly a century ago with the original Preston. “Pres” Summerhays spent 42 years coaching baseball, skiing, football and golf from high school to college, including decades at the University of Utah. He even designed the original nine holes at Carbon Country Club, in Helper, Utah.
When Pres died in 1996 at age 90, his obituary said, “he had a life-long love of the game of golf, which love was inherited by his posterity.”
Pres Summerhays’ three sons inherited their love of sports organically. Young Bruce, Gary and Lynn all hung out at work with their father at Utah and basically had their run of the athletics facilities with great collegiate athletes as role models. The golf part developed at home sneaking onto the local private club to play a three-hole loop near their house until somebody chased them off.
“We grew up in a little house at the end of a cul-de-sac near the 14th hole of Salt Lake City Country Club,” Bruce said. “We’d sneak across the fence. That was our home course and nobody really knew it. It was a playground for us. That’s what stimulated all of us to play golf. Golf just sort of worked its way into all three of us.”
While all three sons went on to play college golf at Utah, it was Bruce who sought out a career in the game. After graduating from Utah, he talked to his father about moving to California and taking a test to work in the airline industry. His father made a call to a friend who was the head pro at San Francisco Golf Club, and he tipped Bruce to an opening for an assistant pro at the Olympic Club. The airline route never took off.
Despite his success in the Northern California PGA Professional section that frequently qualified him to play in California PGA Tour events as well as four U.S. Opens and four PGA Championships, Bruce didn’t seek out a touring life and instead chose the stability of coaching at Stanford and teaching at clubs. Even when he finished third in the 1974 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, he declined the automatic spot in the next tour event to go back to work at his new head pro job at Cameron Park in Sacramento, California.
“We raised a family with eight children and that’s what I decided to do,” he said. “I loved being a club pro and thought it was great.”
It wasn’t until his family was mostly grown when he decided to give the Senior Tour a try despite his career earnings of $9,602 in PGA Tour events. From 1994 to 2010 he became a fixture, playing in 452 Senior Tour events, winning three times, finishing in the top-10 92 times and earning more than $9 million.
“I finished fourth in qualifying and had full exemption and each year finished top-30,” he said. “I had accumulated so much money they couldn’t keep me out of there.”
Along the way, all eight of his kids served as caddie for him as he played alongside the greatest players in golf.
“We had Palmer, Nicklaus, Trevino, Player and all of those stars out there,” Bruce said. “That was the biggest deal in golf. I came in at a wonderful time and just happened to make a lot of putts for 15 years. I don’t dream that good, as good as it was. I knew I could play and nobody could stop me from shooting a good score except me. They couldn’t block my shots. They were all just terrific to me. It was just easy for me to play with them.”
Bruce set the bar for subsequent Summerhays generations, including his eight kids and 19 nephews and nieces. His youngest daughter, Carrie Summerhays Roberts, made it to the LPGA Tour for a couple of seasons competing with the likes of Annika Sörenstam and Lorena Ochoa and is now the golf coach at BYU for the past 10 seasons.
Roberts learned the game with her siblings, following her dad when he was head pro at Wasatch Mountain in Utah.
“We were always just golfing together,” she said. “It is so opposite of dads you see today. He would help us with swing, but we basically figured it out. We lined the range and picked up the balls each night. We were just always at the golf course. But it was never forced upon us.”
It was the same thing in the large Summerhays homes of Gary (12 kids) and Lynn (seven). The eventual tour paths of Boyd and Daniel Summerhays began with the sheer enthusiasm of their father, Lynn, and his connection with his children through the game he still plays nearly every day.
“To be a family man and play the game he loved, he’d need to have the family with him,” said Boyd of his dad.
“Our dad, Lynn, is a good golfer but he’s one of the most optimistic, positive people you’ll ever meet,” said Daniel, who missed the cut at last week’s Albertson’s Boise Open in his last Korn Ferry Tour start before jumping full time into his next chapter as golf coach at Davis High School in Salt Lake City. “When you combine that optimism and skill with knowledge of hard work, it’s a pretty good combo for a rising generation of Summerhays golfers.
“I’ve never seen anyone love the game as much as my dad. Doesn’t matter how he’s playing or where or what conditions he’s playing in, he’s exactly where he wants to be on the golf course.”
Lynn shared that passion with his kids nearly every night after work when whoever was in the house went out for a four-hole loop at Oakridge Country Club in the last 45 minutes of daylight before treating the winners (and losers) of the match to frozen yogurt at a gas station on the way home.
“Coming from the golfing family that we are, there’s a lot of great players and records. People expect a lot out of us, which is kind of added pressure. But I don’t mind it. … I definitely want to build on the family’s legacy.” – Preston Summerhays
From those family matches, Boyd developed into the No. 1 junior golfer in the world for two years among peers that included Charles Howell III, Bryce Molder and David Gossett. He found a second life in golf by coaching players including Finau, Wyndham Clark and Scott Harrington.
“Boyd by far had the most skill, most passion and put in the most time of anybody in our generation,” Daniel said of his brother, who is four years older. “The sky was the limit for him. He battled some injuries and he’ll tell you maybe he tried to search for someone else’s golf swing or tried to be perfect. But honestly, Boyd is in his sweet spot and his calling. He loves to help out and teach the game.”
Boyd won’t argue with his brother’s assessment.
“At the time I didn’t think it was my life’s calling,” he said. “When I played, I never ever thought about teaching. As I look back on it now, my life experiences and in golf as a player led me here. I was trying to be the best player I could be and turn over every stone. Even my failures as a player are why I’m successful as a coach. The bitter taste went away as soon as I started seeing success in my students.
“Life didn’t turn out like I hoped, but it’s turned out better than I thought it would.”
• • •
Three of Boyd’s students are his kids – Preston, Grace and Cameron. Based on the early results, they may take the Summerhays name to new levels.
Preston used to tag along with his dad to the course, carrying a driver, a putter and a loaf of bread to feed the ducks. His dad tried to push him toward playing other sports, but he kept coming back to golf.
Now 18, Preston keeps establishing his own milestones. At 15 he was the youngest to win the Utah State Amateur – the longest continuously run tournament in golf – and a year later became the first to repeat as state champ since Uncle Daniel (in 2000 and 2001). He beat a world class amateur field to become the youngest winner of the Sunnehanna last month and in September will compete in the U.S. Open as the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champ.
“Coming from the golfing family that we are, there’s a lot of great players and records,” Preston said. “People expect a lot out of us, which is kind of added pressure. But I don’t mind it. I definitely have high goals for an amateur and pro career. I definitely want to build on the family’s legacy.”
He’s already impressed his own family with his potential.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Preston will be a really good professional golfer,” Daniel said. “That’s what he wants and he’s an incredible young man.”
Said Bruce: “Preston grew about 6 inches one year and the length started to come. He already had the short game. All of the sudden he’s beating everybody on the planet. He’s a great putter. Some of his shots around the green, only pros put the club on the ball that way. I think he’ll be really, really good.”
“(Grace has) only trained with men and they’ve always been bigger, stronger, faster and older and she wants to beat them. It’s a healthy balance of knowing she’s good but wanting to get better.” – Boyd Summerhays
Grace, 16, was more into swimming until she saw all the time and attention her older brother was getting from their dad. At 12, she decided she wanted to be a part of that as well. Her swimming muscles quickly translated into power, and she measures herself not only practicing with her brother but competing against men in tournaments.
“She’s only trained with men and they’ve always been bigger, stronger, faster and older and she wants to beat them,” her father said. “It’s a healthy balance of knowing she’s good but wanting to get better.”
“Grace, I can’t say enough about,” said Daniel of his niece. “Her maturity and work ethic and intelligence, how she goes about the game reminds me a lot of myself. I see no reason why you won’t see another Summerhays on the PGA Tour and another Summerhays on the LPGA Tour in the next five years.”
• • •
The most major Summerhays golf achievement was Daniel finishing solo third in the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol behind Jimmy Walker and Jason Day. That earned him the family’s first spot in the Masters in 2017, where he tied for 46th.
“Those are top golfing experiences for me,” Daniel said. “I birdied six out of the last 10 holes at Baltusrol to finish solo third. And to play the Masters, make the cut at the Masters, that’s still on a lot of guys’ bucket lists who’ve played the tour for a while.”
With a golf-obsessed family the size of this one, the Masters trip required renting a couple of houses in Augusta, Georgia, and made for a complicated organization of the limited available tickets.
“We had an Excel spreadsheet and algorithm in place,” Daniel said, not joking. “There were several meeting locations outside the gate to exchange tickets. It was pretty intense, but we got a lot of Summerhays family and friends in and out of that place.”
Uncle Bruce was not one of them. In fact, he’s never even been to Augusta National. In 1995, Gary Player enjoyed Bruce’s friendly company so much that he asked him to caddie for him in the Masters, but Summerhays declined in order to play in another senior event.
“As I look back, that was a mistake,” Bruce said. “I should have caddied for Gary Player at the Masters. But I was programmed to play and play.”
Augusta National probably hasn’t seen the last of the Summerhays family. Nor have the various courses that host other major championships, either men’s or women’s. Young Preston has the potential to be the best of them considering his pedigree, coaching and accomplishments thus far. Grace could qualify for a future Augusta National Women’s Amateur before her ultimate goal of making it on the LPGA Tour.
Considering the size of the ever-growing Summerhays family, the math bodes well for someone eventually breaking through.
“Yes, I definitely think it’s gonna happen,” said Preston of the family’s chances of producing a major winner. “If it’s not me, that’s fine.”
Even Boyd can’t argue with his son’s optimistic logic.
“As each generation comes up again, it adds more to family legacy,” Boyd said. “It will continue to get passed down from generation to generation and continue to grow. The game is in our blood.”
Top: A Summerhays gathering at a Parent-Junior scramble in Salt Lake City, Utah, including Lynn Summerhays, fifth from left
Photos courtesy of the Summerhays family.
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