FARMINGTON — Daniel Summerhays is retiring from professional golf. But that’s not how he likes to describe it.
“I can still play pretty well, but I feel like theres’ several reasons to leading me calling it a change of direction, or a strong pivot. This has kind of been on the back of my mind for several years now,” Summerhays said Tuesday after shooting a 6-under practice round. “I always love working with youth. I’m still young, I’m 36, but I feel like I get along really well with ages 15-25.”
This week’s Korn Ferry Tour Utah Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington will be Summerhays’ last professional event, capping an eight-year PGA Tour career for the Farmington native and Davis High/BYU alumnus.
There were several things at play in his decision to step away from pro golf. One was the constant travel that PGA Tour life requires, especially if golfers make the cut and qualify for all four rounds of a tournament. The constant flights, the different hotel beds, the early mornings, and the hard physical and mental work it takes to make a living on the Tour added up.
“I got to the point where I was just carrying a lacrosse ball in a backpack all the time and was in the airport rolling on it, trying to roll out a knot in my back, or whatever it was,” Summerhays said.
His family was a huge reason. Summerhays has four children, ages 12, 10, 8 and 5.
“Early on when they’re younger, they can travel with me and be with me all the time,” he said.
Since they’ve gotten older, they have their own things going on. For the last three to four years, he’d leave for a tournament and the family would stay home, “and that was difficult,” he said.
He’s played sparingly on the PGA Tour the last couple years, instead trying to rise through the ranks again on the Korn Ferry Tour, which acts as the junior varsity league for the PGA Tour.
“Obviously the road back to the PGA Tour is a difficult one and a long one, and I had eight seasons out there where I was able to do a lot of good for myself and my family,” Summerhays said.
Starting this fall, he won’t be far from his family when he starts teaching and coaching at his alma mater, Davis High. Summerhays has been hired as the new boys golf head coach and is going to teach a handful of subjects at DHS, including sports marketing.
Lately, he’s been thinking about his pro golf career and the places it’s taken him and the things he’s accomplished.
The 2014-2016 period was perhaps his most notable. He had five top-10 finishes in 2015, then two top-10 finishes in major championships in 2016, including a third-place nod at the PGA Championship and eighth at the U.S. Open.
“It still seems crazy to think that I played in a Masters. ... Even those who’ve played on the PGA Tour a long time, the percentage of players who’ve played on the Masters is very low. To have that be checked off on my bucket list is quite the accomplishment,” Summerhays said.
There was one specific moment about the major championship experience he relishes.
“The overall Masters experience is unbelievable, but the thrill of a U.S. Open, there’s nothing like it. It’s the biggest crowds, the biggest venues,” Summerhays said. “To hear a roar from a U.S. Open grandstand after you make a putt — I specifically remember at Chambers Bay (in 2015), I made a birdie putt on Friday afternoon, I think it was the 13th hole, and there was this massive grandstand behind me and the roar was so loud it made the hair stand up on me.”
Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, there won’t be fans this week at the Utah Championship. The TV trucks, camera crews and fancy signage are still on the course, but it is quite a different experience than years past.
Hand sanitizer stations are everywhere. Most, if not all, tournament workers and staff are wearing face masks, parking lot entrants are screened for COVID-19 symptoms and social distancing is strongly encouraged.
It’s a weird situation, but it isn’t dampening the mood for Summerhays, who says he’s looking forward to playing his last pro tournament, on his home course with his nephew Preston Summerhays and current BYU golfer Cole Ponich.
This is the third Korn Ferry Tour event since golf restarted earlier this month, and the first event outside of the state of Florida.
Spectators aren’t allowed at the tournament and there’s signage all along Shepard Lane and in nearby neighborhoods posted by the Farmington Police Department prohibiting parking.
So, people who want to catch a glimpse of the action are going to have to hope they know somebody who lives next to the course, or watch on the Golf Channel.
PGATour.com ranks 31-year-old Ohio native Justin Lower at the top of its Utah Championship “power rankings.” Lower was the runner-up in last week’s event in St. Augustine, Florida.
No. 2 is Will Zalatoris, a Wake Forest alumnus who finished tied for third last week and has four top-10 finishes this season on the tour.
The power rankings have Patrick Fishburn at No. 8.
The Golf Channel is airing Utah Championship coverage from 4-6 p.m. every day.
SELECT TEE TIMES
Patrick Fishburn — 8:25 a.m. Thursday, 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Daniel Summerhays, Cole Ponich, Preston Summerhays — 9:15 a.m. Thursday, 2:20 p.m. Friday.