TEMPE – Coming into his hometown PGA Tour tournament for the first time, Preston Summerhays hit the ropes at the Worlds Phoenix Open as a standard set volunteer. He walked with pro players, held up a sign with their scores and the fans cheered him on to spin the sign and he was ecstatic. Years later, Summerhays, a freshman from Arizona State, will be one of the players in TPC Scottsdale’s 132-man field.
Summerhays, an 18-year-old amateur, was given a sponsorship leave to the Phoenix Open, giving him a chance to test his game against the world’s best players.
“I was so emotional when I got the call,” Summerhays said. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever tried not to cry, it meant that much to me.”
Summerhays said his family lives five minutes from the pitch and he has been attending the tournament for years.
“Waste Management is such a big tournament for me,” said Summerhays, who added, “For me, it’s one of my favorite tournaments to watch.”
Summerhays expected to play at the Phoenix Open one day. As a very self-confident golfer, he always set himself high goals from a young age. He attended Chaparral High School in Scottsdale and was a standout 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 goalscorer. As a sophomore, Summerhays’ improvement was incredible. At the time, his lowest competitive scores were 33 for nine holes, 60 for 18 and 19 under par 125 for 36 holes.
Daniel Peterson, the former golf coach at Chaparral High School, said, “It was something that even as an amateur he expected to play 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 caddie for the Phoenix Open, Boyd has helped coach successful professional golfers such as Tony Finau, Wyndham Clark and Scott Harrington. His uncle Daniel turned pro in 2007 and has a pro win. And his sister Grace is a successful player on the ASU women’s team.
Summerhays is no stranger to tournament play, both at the high school and professional levels. His record at major events is impressive. He has already won two amateur championships, the US Junior Amateur and Sunnehanna Amateur, as well as two consecutive Utah State amateur championships in 2018 and 2019. Summerhays has also qualified for one of the four majors in men’s golf, the United States Open , where he missed the cut but was competitive.
“His goal was to get into those events before he even turned pro,” Peterson said. “It’s something he’s been working toward 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 quickly translated into college success. He has helped the Sun Devils become the top golf program in the country and is the 17th collegiate golfer in the country according to Golfweek. Summerhays was a crucial factor for the Sun Devils and quickly adapted to the new format.
“Preston sees himself as a star golfer,” said Matt Thurmond, Arizona State men’s golf coach. “He sees himself as one of the best golfers in the world. He plays a different game than most people.”
At the Phoenix Open, Summerhays will face off against players who, unlike him, are fighting 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 strong odds, the performance of Mickelson, a six-time major winner and World Golf Hall of Famer up for grabs PGA Tour could see a star in the making at TPC Scottsdale if he tees off.
“I’m excited,” Peterson said, “but I already know that the expectations he has of himself far exceed what anyone else has of him. I know he will make it. He will be a big winner. I already know it.”