When you’re a Utah native whose surname is Summerhays, it's a good bet that you’re not only a golfer, but an accomplished one. So it was that Preston Summerhays on Saturday won the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.
Summerhays, two days shy of his 17th birthday, made an improbable birdie on the 35th hole of the match to defeat Bo Jin of China, 2 and 1, at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
On the deciding hole, the par-4 17th at Inverness, Summerhays hit his tee shot right and into thick rough, with a tree between his ball and the green.
“I didn’t hit the best tee ball,” he said. “I remember getting to my ball, and I had 145 yards to the very front edge, down wind, over a tree. I was just thinking if I hit this high enough and hard enough I could get it to land on the front edge and have it roll back to the back end. I hit it great and ended up having an eight-footer.”
He holed the putt to win the biggest prize in junior golf. The victory earns him a spot in the U.S. Amateur next month at Pinehurst and the U.S. Open next year at Winged Foot.
Summerhays is the latest in a lineage of Summerhays golfers. His father, Boyd, played one year on the PGA Tour and now is an instructor. His brother Daniel is a veteran PGA Tour player. His uncle Bruce won three times on the PGA Tour Champions. His great-grandfather Pres was a golf coach at the University of Utah. And his sister, Grace, 15, is playing in the U.S. Junior Girls Championship next week at SentryWorld Golf Course in Stevens Point, Wis.
Preston, who is 208th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, was coming off a second Utah State Amateur victory. Before that, he missed the cut by two shots in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Utah Championship.
En route to the final, he defeated the acclaimed junior amateur Akshay Bhatia, 1 up, in the round of 16. Bhatia is No. 4 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Jin, 777th in the amateur ranking, was 3 up through 16 holes, but Summerhays won the 17th and 18th holes and was 1 down after the morning 18. Summerhays never trailed after squaring the match on the 21st hole.
Aside from his family, probably no one was more excited than another Utah native, Tony Finau, who Tweeted this from Northern Ireland, where he is playing in the British Open: