Kragthorpe: Summerhays cousins help make PGA Championship historic for Utah
Joe and Daniel Summerhays have been playing together in golf tournaments since the late 1980s, when they were among nearly a dozen siblings and cousins who annually traveled to the Junior World event in southern California.
The volume of Summerhayses in the field once impressed the Los Angeles Times so much that the newspaper devoted a lengthy story to them, while mentioning near the bottom that Eldrick Woods was leading the boys 13-14 division of the tournament.
You may know him as Tiger. In any case, Woods’ absence from the PGA Championship field contributed to another big convergence of Utahns. The tournament beginning Thursday at Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey will bring together the two Summerhays cousins, plus teaching pro Tommy Sharp and PGA Tour members Tony Finau and Zac Blair, who got into the tournament last week when Woods withdrew.
The fivesome of Utah residents only ties the all-time high for a major tournament, but here’s the distinction: All five are homegrown players, products of the Utah Junior Golf Association and graduates of high schools in the state. And if not for Joe Summerhays’ losing in the 1994 final match, all five would be State Amateur champions.
“It just shows the depth and competition’s improving in Utah,” said Sharp, 35, a Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School alumnus who teaches at the Golf Lab facility in Salt Lake City.
Finau, Blair and Daniel Summerhays have thrived on the PGA Tour. Joe Summerhays and Sharp are joining them for a week in New Jersey, having qualified with top-20 finishes in the PGA Professional National Championship for club pros in New York in late June.
Joe Summerhays, 44, from Wasatch High School, will be playing in his first major — nearly 50 years after his father, Bruce, made his major debut in the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol. Bruce Summerhays also played in four PGA Championships as a club pro before launching his PGA Tour Champions pursuit when he turned 50. He won three tournaments and earned more than $9 million in a 16-year career.
Joe Summerhays caddied for his father in the family rotation, while watching his younger sister, BYU women’s golf coach Carrie Roberts, play the LPGA Tour and cousins Boyd and Daniel Summerhays play the PGA Tour. He tried several times to qualify for the tour and often came close, but never made it.
“My game at times definitely was good enough,” he said.
With one shot in a major, “I have such a different perspective now,” he said. “If this would have happened when I was younger, I would have felt more pressure. Nothing I do next week is going to change my life.”
Whether he makes or misses the 36-hole cut, he’ll return to teaching at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington, Eagle Lake GC in Roy and Hubbard GC at Air Force Base. Sharp has built a teaching business with partner Corey Badger, who will caddy for him at Baltusrol.
“Playing’s what keeps me passionate about golf,” said Sharp, who believes that seeing how he responds in competitive, pressurized situations on he course makes him a better teacher, learning what information is important to convey to his students.
Utah club pros have appeared regularly in the PGA Championship, even though only 20 spots are available to the 312 contestants in the national club pro event. Steve Schneiter, Kim Thompson and Milan Swilor joined PGA Tour players Mike Weir and Mike Reid in the 1999 tournament at Medinah CC in Chicago. In 2005, Schneiter made the cut and was honored as the highest-finishing club pro at Baltusrol.
That’s the goal for the teaching pros. Sharp is eager to “see where I stand with the big boys,” he said. Joe Summerhays also hopes to play well. His sons Caleb and Jeffrey will caddy for him, while he continues a family tradition of playing golf at the highest available level, just as the Summerhayses liked to do three decades ago on the opposite coast.