From Phoenix Open volunteer to player, ASU freshman Preston Summerhays living golf dream

(Video by Ashley Engle/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – The first time that Preston Summerhays attended his hometown PGA Tour tournament, he walked inside the ropes at the WM Phoenix Open as a volunteer standard score bearer. Walking with professional players, holding a sign with their scores on it, and with fans cheering him on to spin the sign, he was hooked. Years later, Summerhays, an Arizona State freshman, will be one of the players in the 132-man field at TPC Scottsdale.

Summerhays, an 18-year-old amateur, received a sponsorship exemption into the Phoenix Open, offering him the chance to test his game against the best players in the world.

“When I got the call I was so emotional,” Summerhays said. “It was the hardest I have ever tried to not cry, that’s how much it meant to me.”

Summerhays said his family lives five minutes from the course and he has been attending the tournament for years.

“The Waste Management is such a big tournament to me,” said Summerhays, who added, “For me it’s one of my favorite tournaments to go watch.”

Summerhays expected to play in the Phoenix Open one day. A very confident golfer, he has always set high goals, even from a young age. He attended Chaparral High School in Scottsdale and was a stellar golfer for the Firebirds. He helped the team secure a state championship in 2017, and as a freshman on the varsity team, Summerhays was a consistent scorer. As a sophomore, Summerhays’ improvement was incredible. At the time, his lowest competition scores were 33 for nine holes, 60 for 18 and 19-under par 125 for 36 holes.

Daniel Peterson, the former Chaparral High School golf coach, said, “It was something that he had expected to do, even as an amateur, to compete in these big events.”

The name “Summerhays” and golf are almost synonymous. Summerhays is the latest in a long line of extended family members with ties to the game. His father and caddy for the Phoenix Open, Boyd, has helped train successful professional golfers such as Tony Finau, Wyndham Clark and Scott Harrington. His uncle Daniel turned pro in 2007 and has one professional victory. And his sister, Grace, is a successful player on the ASU women’s team.

As a standout golfer at Chaparral High School, Summerhays helped the team secure a state championship in 2017. (Photo courtesy Thomas Fernandez)

Summerhays is no stranger to tournament play, at either the high school or professional level. His resume in big events is impressive. He has already won two amateur championships, the U.S. Junior Amateur and Sunnehanna Amateur, and back-to-back Utah State Amateur championships in 2018 and 2019. Summerhays has also qualified for one of men’s golf’s four majors, the United States Open, where he missed the cut but was competitive.

“He had goals of playing in these events before even becoming a pro,” Peterson said. “This is something that he has been working towards now for years. I’m not shocked, I’m just excited for him to go out there and perform.”

Summerhays’ success on the course in high school has quickly translated into college success. He has helped the Sun Devils become the top golf program in the nation and is the 17th -ranked collegiate golfer in the country, according to Golfweek. Summerhays has been a key contributing factor for the Sun Devils and has adapted to the new format quickly.

“Preston sees himself as a star golfer,” Arizona State men’s golf coach Matt Thurmond said. “He sees himself being one of the best golfers in the world. He is playing a different game than most people are.”

Preston Summerhays. an 18-year-old amateur, received a sponsorship exemption into the Phoenix Open, offering him the chance to test his game against the best players in the world. (Photo courtesy Thomas Fernandez).

At the Phoenix Open, Summerhays will be competing against players who, unlike him, are vying for a piece of the $8.2 million purse. The winner will receive $1,476,000. The last amateur to win a PGA Tour event was another golfer representing ASU, Phil Mickelson, in Tucson in 1991. Although Summerhays faces stiff odds to equal the achievement of Mickelson, a six-time major winner and World Golf Hall of Fame member, the PGA Tour could see a star in the making at TPC Scottsdale when he tees off.

“I’m excited,” Peterson said, “But I already know the expectations he’s got for himself far exceed anything that anyone else is putting on him. I know he’s going to accomplish it. He’s going to be a major winner. I already know it.”

Joe McHugh Joe Mc-hue
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Joe McHugh expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. McHugh has interned with Times Media Group and Phoenix Magazine, and freelanced for Pasadena Weekly. He is working for the Phoenix sports bureau.

Ashley Engle ASH-lee EN-gul
Sports Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

Ashley Engle expects to graduate in spring 2023 with a master’s degree in mass communication. Engle has been a golf reporter and anchor for Cronkite News Sports.