Last week, Daniel Summerhays, his wife, Emily, and their two young sons spent a night in a Wal-mart parking lot in Fort Stockton, Texas. Two nights later, it was another Wal-mart lot in De Funiak Springs, Florida.
In between, they parked in the driveway of his sister's house in Houston. Earlier in the week, it was a couple of nights in front of his brother Boyd's house in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Welcome to the Summerhays PGA Golf Tour Traveling Show, where the motto is "Have golf will travel."
The former BYU all-American golfer and two-time State Amateur champion travels the country with his young family in a 44-foot motor home, towing the family car behind. They've been doing it for a couple of years now, during his last two years on the Nationwide Tour and this year in his rookie season on the PGA Tour.
"We drive around everywhere and have our little house on wheels," Summerhays says. "Jack and Patton have all their toys and Emily has all her shoes and clothes and I've got all my golf equipment. It's a pretty good deal."
Last week, the Summerhays family traveled nearly 3,000 miles across the country, from southern California to southern Florida, some 46 hours of driving. Aside from the stops in Phoenix and Houston to see family members, it was life in the fast lane along Interstate-10.
And just how fast does he go?
"I keep it on cruise control at 72 — right around par," Summerhays says.
It's not like this all the time for the Summerhays family. During his first two months of the year, they spent most of their time in California and Arizona and never had to travel more than a day to get to the next stop. Summerhays skipped the Tour stop in Mexico last week and spent the time on the road going from California to Florida.
As a 27-year-old with such a young family — Jack turns 3 this month and Patton is 1 — travelling with a home on wheels allows Summerhays to see his family on a daily basis rather than being away for weeks at a time. The Tour provides child care, so Emily can leave the boys for a few hours and go on the course to watch her husband play.
"The nice thing about the motor home is you can just take off and stay somewhere for the whole week," he said. "Utah is a long detour to some of these events. We just hit the road and it's really nice. I'm able to see a lot of my family along the way and Emily's family is spread across the country. This way I don't miss home so much."
Ever since he was a standout junior golfer, Summerhays has had ambitions to play on the PGA Tour. He became one of the youngest-ever winners of the Utah State Amateur in 2000, winning at age 16 at his home course, Oakridge Country Club in Farmington. He followed up with another State Am victory the following year and then took his talents to BYU.
After interrupting his golf career for an LDS mission to Chile, Summerhays came back to star for BYU and shocked the golf world by winning the Nationwide Tour's Children's Hospital Invitational in Ohio as an amateur the summer before his senior year. That victory spurred him to cut his senior season short and turn pro, and he joined the Nationwide Tour in 2008.
He had spotty success his first two years on the Nationwide before breaking through last year with $391,742 in earnings, good for No. 5 on the money list and an exemption for this year's PGA Tour.
"I'm feeling comfortable already," Summerhays said. "The guys are pretty nice out here."
In his two months in the big leagues, Summerhays has found out quickly how different things are compared to the Nationwide Tour.
For one, there's the money.
When he finished in a tie for 11th place at the Bob Hope Classic in late January, Summerhays pocketed a cool $120,000 — the largest paycheck of his life. A year earlier on the Nationwide Tour, a tie for 11th would have brought him somewhere between $12,000 and $15,000.
"The pay scale is a little different," he said. "It's about 10 times more. That's really nice."
Along with the money, the PGA Tour offers perks such as free cars during tournaments, day care for his children and more food than you can imagine.
"It's funny how the more money you make, the more free stuff you get. I don't know quite how that works," he says with a laugh.
Then there's the competition.
Summerhays is discovering just how tough it is to make a cut even if you're under par. He's made three cuts in six tournaments this year and missed the cut by one in Phoenix, by two at the L.A. Open and by four in San Diego.
In Phoenix, he lipped out a 10-foot par putt on the final hole to miss the cut. But the following week at Pebble Beach, he had another 10-footer for par on the last hole to make the cut. This time he drained it.
"That was a little redemption for the disappointment at Phoenix," he said. "I went on to play a solid final round and have a pretty good finish."
Then a week later at Riviera in Los Angeles, he was on the cut line with five holes to play, only to make a pair of bogeys. He birdied his 17th hole and needed another birdie to make the cut, but bogeyed instead.
"It seems like every tournament comes down to the last hole, making the cut or not," he said.
Despite the tougher competition, there are times when playing the PGA Tour doesn't seem that much different to Summerhays than the three previous years on the Nationwide Tour.
At the Phoenix Open, he played the first two days with William McGirt and Cameron Tringale, a couple of PGA Tour qualifiers who had played with Summerhays on the Nationwide Tour last year.
While thousands (the Phoenix Open annually attracts the largest crowds on the PGA Tour) watched the likes of Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples on nearby fairways, the gallery following Summerhays in the late afternoon of the first round consisted of exactly six people — his brothers Boyd and Spencer, a business colleague of Spencer's, two friends of McGirt's and a reporter from Salt Lake.
On this day, Summerhays didn't play his best, hitting a couple of stray drives, leaving a long putt in the jaws before rallying at the end with a couple of birdies, including an eight-footer in near-darkness in the last group on the course for a 72.
"Golf's the same," Summerhays said in the darkness later. "The rough may be a little thicker here, but the Nationwide Tour prepared all of us who came out of there really well. Golf is no different. You have to really focus and rely on your inner confidence."
Summerhays is a goal-oriented person who made some specific goals for himself at the start of this year. But he decided that quantitative goals like where to finish on the money list and what kind of scores to shoot weren't a great idea.
"I said to myself, 'You know what, those are things I can't necessarily control.' "
Summerhays does have a goal to keep his PGA card for another year by finishing in the Top 125 and is off to a great start with nearly $200,000 in earnings and a No. 58 spot on the FedEx Cups points list so far.
"I'm putting in certain hours every day and doing certain mental drills every day," he said. "My goal is to be the most positive player on tour. I'm going to go through my routine and focus on the smallest target possible and make the greatest stroke possible. I make sure I put in the time and effort and the other goals will be byproducts."
If Summerhays continues to play well, he'll continue to get into more tournaments and he hopes to play between 25 to 30 events this year.
"It's nice because I'm not playing great right now, but I'm surviving and at least have a chance to make the cut," he said. "I know I'm close. I'm not playing my best, but at least I'm competing. I feel like I'm doing a good job with my attitude and not getting too frustrated."2 comments on this story
After playing in the Honda Classic this week, Summerhays will take a rare plane trip over to Puerto Rico and then return for tournaments at Miami, Tampa and Orlando before heading west again for the Houston Open.
For now, Summerhays is just trying to enjoy the ride — both on the golf course as well as the highway.
Daniel Summerhays at a glance
Education: Davis High (2002), BYU (2008)
Won Nationwide Tour Children's Hospital Invitational in Ohio in 2007 as an amateur.
Finished 5th on Nationwide Tour money list in 2010 to earn PGA Tour card.
Has earned $193,226 in first year on PGA Tour in 2011 to rank No. 58 in the FedEx Cup standings.