COTTSDALE, ARIZONA (AP) – Preston Summerhays has experienced his fair share of dramatic situations on the golf course. He competed in the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, which he qualified for by winning the U.S. Junior Amateur. In doing so, he joined the likes of Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth in a renowned winners circle.
Summerhays, a Scottsdale resident and Arizona State student, has never encountered anything like the scene at TPC Scottsdale on Thursday afternoon. Despite being the lone amateur in the field of the WM Phoenix Open, he received one of the loudest applause of the day when his name was called at the first tee.
Summerhays, who was 3-over through 16 holes before his round was postponed due to darkness, stated, “It’s extremely wonderful to have the crowd sing your name.” He finished his first round with a 75 on Friday morning, making bogey on No. 18. “On the first hole, there was a lot of applause.”
It was a dream come true for the Scottsdale Chaparral graduate. Boyd, his father, is a golf instructor who works with PGA pros like Tony Finau. He walked with groups and displayed their scores for fans as a standard bearer at this tournament when he was in middle school.
Summerhays’ peers thought he was bound for the PGA Tour by the time he graduated from high school.
“We knew he was unique just by his personality,” said Dan Peterson, a former Chaparral golf coach, as he stood beside the 14th hole on Thursday. “He took a different approach to the game than any of the other kids we’d seen come in.”
That demeanor was crucial early in Thursday’s round. Summerhays hit a nice third shot on the par 4 second hole, which landed about seven feet above the hole.
His par putt, on the other hand, slid off the right edge. That was horrible enough on its own. Summerhays then caught the left edge on his three-foot comebacker. A possible par had turned into a double-bogey.
Summerhays admitted, “I was obviously a little bit nervous.” “That adrenaline was pumping.”
The misses, on the other hand, did not reach his head. Summerhays calmly gave his putter to Boyd, who is caddying for him this week, as he walked off the green and switched his attention to the next tee box.
From there, his round became more stable. After a bogey on four due to a poor bunker shot, he reeled off eight straight pars.
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Summerhays then made the breakthrough he had been looking for on the par-5 13th, getting up-and-down from the first cut to drop to 2-over.
“Finally,” Summerhays said after his lone birdie.
Summerhays was delighted with his driving and ball-striking after the round, despite giving that stroke back with another lip out — this time from four feet — on the next hole.
Whether he jumps 49 spots to make the top 65 before tomorrow’s cut, the memory of this week’s performance will fade quickly. Summerhays will host a slew of PGA Tour events in the next years.
None, though, will provide the same emotional high as Thursday’s round. Summerhays was greeted by chants of “Pres-ton” and “Let’s Go Devils” when he went into the stadium at the 16th hole just after 6 p.m. Thursday night.
This week, six of the world’s top ten players are in Scottsdale. They, too, cycled past the 16th hole over the course of nine hours on Thursday. Summerhays received a warm welcome unlike few others.
Summerhays couldn’t finish the sequence with a birdie, as his first putt fell just beyond the hole. This time, however, he took the initiative and drained his par.
Another chorus of chants erupted behind him as he did so. He suddenly broke character after an afternoon of stoicism, acknowledging the spectators and threw a ball up towards them.
Summerhays added, “I’ve never encountered anything like that.”