Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
Daniel Summerhays takes part in the Cougar Classic in April. His NCAA performance was the best by a BYU golfer in 20 years.

He's the latest All-American golfer to roll off the line at BYU.

He's a humble yet stone-cold, driven competitor, blessed with a velvet putting stroke, powerful launch off the tee, solid irons and the right golf name.

Daniel Summerhays, nephew of Senior PGA Tour veteran Bruce Summerhays, is up to his Pings in summer amateur competition on a national level, where he hopes to earn enough points and recognition to make the Walker Cup team that will represent the United States in Ireland this fall. To do so, he'll continue a blistering schedule that began after his No. 4 finish in the NCAA Tournament earlier this month.

Summerhay's play at the NCAA championship was the best performance by a BYU golfer in 20 years. It included rounds of 74-63-68-70 for a 275 on a Williamsburg, Va., course at which he set the course record last fall.

Young Daniel is now going shoulder-to-shoulder with the best amateurs in the land — most of whom we'll see on the PGA Tour some day. He finished 21st in the Sunnehanna Amateur, No. 8 at the Monroe Invitational and No. 5 at the Northeast Amateur. He still has the Pacific Coast, Western and U.S. Amateurs.

He's getting the itch. Future PGA stars Chris Kirk, Dustin Johnson and Oklahoma State-bound Ricky Fowler consider him their buddy. He's entered an elite circle.

Fowler, a long-hitting California prep star, is considered the next superstar in golf. He set the Sun River course record in St. George during a casual round with the head pro last summer. A few weeks ago, playing with Fowler in a tournament during a 30-mile-an-hour headwind, Summerhays blasted his drives past Fowler by 30 yards.

"Hey, you're making me feel like a short-knocker," Fowler told Summerhays.

At 5-foot-7 and just over 200 pounds, that was music to Summerhay's ears.

"What I've learned most is that I've gained a lot of confidence playing with these guys, knowing that I belong, that I can compete, that I am one of them," said Summerhays on Monday.

One of only 10 members of the All-America team, Summerhays finished his junior season at BYU with the seventh best stroke average in NCAA history (69.83). It was the lowest in the NCAA this season and the only sub-70 average. Summerhays is the first Cougar golfer to attain first-team status since Brent Franklin in 1986.

What this means locally is Summerhays cannot afford to take time off from his national schedule to play in the Utah State Amateur next month at Thanksgiving Point. The runner-up to Tony Finau and a two-time champion of that event, his absence and Finau's decision to turn professional leaves that storied weeklong event wide open.

"I love the State Amateur, it is a great event, one I've won before. Now, with all that's going on I have to ask myself, 'Where will it get me?' and I have to choose to play somewhere else."

Summerhays is excused.

As Utah amateurs kill one another off at the State Amateur in two weeks, Summerhays will be at the Nationwide Tour event in Columbus, Ohio, where all 10 members of the All-America team are invited. And if he wins ....

Of course the question of his remaining at BYU for his senior season comes up. He has talked this over extensively with coach Bruce Brockbank. He plans to compete for the Cougars this fall.

Regardless, Summerhays plans on attending the PGA Qualifying School in November. If he makes the second stage, he will likely turn professional.

If he does not, he has the option to keep his amateur status and return for BYU's spring golf schedule. A player who makes the second stage at Q-School earns conditional status on the Nationwide.

It is a priority to graduate, and he lacks only 10 credits from earning a degree in finance from the Marriott School of Business Management. And he's also married. He has plenty of motivation to become a professional golfer and take a crack at prize money.

That low stroke average this past college season at BYU?

Well, it stands higher on the list than current PGA Tour stars Paul Casey and Phil Mikelson (Arizona State) when they were collegians.

Summerhays already ranks as one of the top amateurs in Utah golf history with his performances as a teen before his LDS mission and BYU career.

Now, he's a few putts away from continuing delivery on a national if not world stage.

He drives the ball 290-plus yards at sea level, 320-plus around these parts. He's a master with his three-wood and usually defers to that off the tee. He is a solid iron player and can drop in his wedges. His strength is his putting.

At the NCAAs, Summerhays opened with a 74 the first day but carded a 63 on Day 2. "I went from 108th to No. 8."

Until his No. 5 finish at the Northeastern, he describes his summer play as mediocre.

"What I've got to do in these tournaments is be more aggressive. I can't be tentative with my putter when it's on the line. I've been a little too conservative."

Right now, traveling the country with his wife as his caddy, Summerhays says this is how he dreamed it would be.

"I love golf. I feel very blessed to be able to play at this level. It teaches you so much. It demands so much of you mentally, emotionally and physically. Just when you think you have it mastered, you don't and you never will. It's a challenge that teaches you a lot about life, about yourself."

And he can't get enough.


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