Ever since he won a Junior World event at the age of 10, Boyd Summerhays has planned to make a living as a professional golfer. He's gone to college, but except for mowing lawns occasionally in the summer as a teenager, he's never even had a job besides that as a golfer.
Summerhays has played for the best college golf program in the country at Oklahoma State, he's been a regular on both the PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour, and he's won numerous tournaments in Utah and around the country.
But now, at the age of 29, he doesn't have any sort of status on a golf tour for the first time in more than four years and, for the first time, he is considering, sort of, not making a living on the golf course.
Six years ago, when asked about what he would do if he didn't make the PGA Tour, he quickly answered, "It's never crossed my mind. I don't even think about it."
Now he says, "If I wake up in the morning and know it's not happening, I would be able to walk away."
However, that still may be a long way off. Despite a series of setbacks that have befallen him in recent years, he's not ready to give up on his golf ambitions.
Summerhays, who received a sponsor's exemption to the Nationwide Utah Championship in September, says his game is on an upswing, as evidenced by victories earlier this year at the Fox Hollow Open in Utah and the Navajo Trail Open in Colorado last month. Last weekend, he lost in a playoff at the Colorado Open, the biggest state open in the West.
"I'm going in the right direction, for sure," he said.
He hasn't played in any Nationwide events this year after being a regular last year and in fact doesn't have any access to the major golf tours, which he has enjoyed to one extent or another for the last four years. But that hasn't discouraged him.
"It's been a better year, being healthy," he said, recalling a series of setbacks he's endured off the course.
For someone who's not even 30, Summerhays has had as many health issues as some folks do in a lifetime.
He battled back problems (inflamed bulging discs) in 2004, his rookie year on the PGA Tour, and had to miss several weeks and was never fully healthy when he returned. The next two years he played on and off on the two tours with a medical exemption, but he had more injuries to contend with.
In 2005, he was in a restaurant when a rack of plates happened to fall on him, breaking his foot. The next year, he jammed his hand and later he found out he had broken a bone, after he had tried playing a tournament with the injury.
Recently it's been a problem with his hip.
On the Nationwide Tour last year, he thought he had a pulled muscle and would go to the training trailer every week to work on it, but "it never healed up."
"I just wanted to play," he said.
It turns out he had some worn-out cartilage, and cortisone shots have helped ease the pain since.
"I don't feel any pain," he said. "It's been a good year."
Summerhays knows "it's hard enough to play when you're healthy," than to have broken toes, broken fingers, bulging discs and hip problems.
"Then you lose confidence and all of a sudden you're fighting it," he said.
Summerhays was a phenom as a teenager, winning three Junior World tournaments and earning a No. 1 ranking in the U.S. as a 16-year-old. He used to beat the likes of Charles Howell, Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia on a regular basis.
"It's hard for me because I've had some success," he says about his current status.
He was recruited to Oklahoma State and, after a decent freshman year, went on an LDS mission to Argentina. When he came back, he was playing at OSU within two months, but he wasn't ready and struggled with his game. The next summer he decided to turn professional and, despite some success, he said he "completely lost it" for awhile.
However, within a year and a half he earned his PGA Tour card and played on and off the two major tours for the next four years.
"Sometimes I say to myself, 'You're crazy to keep playing,"' he said. "It's really hard. A lot of people would have given up by now. But I believe I still have it in me."
Summerhays has a heavy schedule leading up to "Tour school," the PGA qualifying tournament in the fall, with four tournaments on his slate in both August and September.
"Last year gave me confidence that I can compete at that level, and this year I have played well," he said.
But as confident as Summerhays feels right now, he knows the road won't be easy."I still have a long ways to go."