THE PRESIDENTS CUP
The unique connection between Tony Finau and the Summerhays family
October 08, 2019
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Tony Finau with Preston Summerhays and Boyd Summerhays. (Courtesy of the Summerhays family)
A trip to Australia and the opportunity to represent one’s country aren’t the only perks for the participants in the Junior Presidents Cup. The 24 players on the U.S. and International teams get to interact with the elite players who will compete in this year’s Presidents Cup, set for December at Royal Melbourne.
While many juniors will be meeting their heroes for the first time, Preston Summerhays is accustomed to being around the PGA TOUR’s best. That’s what happens when your father is a former TOUR player and successful swing coach. Preston, the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion, already knows several of the players who will compete for captains Ernie Els and Tiger Woods.
Summerhays’ father, Boyd, was once the top-ranked junior in the country. He played college golf at Oklahoma State, where his teammates included Charles Howell III and Bo Van Pelt, and played 29 events on the PGA TOUR from 2004-06 before injuries ended his career. Now he is the instructor for Tony Finau, Scott Harrington and Wyndham Clark.
Golf success runs in the Summerhays’ genes. The family has featured multiple generations of successful players. Preston and his sister, Grace, who advanced to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Girls' Junior, are continuing that tradition.
Preston is waiting to see if the TOUR player with whom he has the closest relationship, Finau, also will be in Australia in December. Finau FaceTimed Preston shortly after that U.S. Junior. Am win. They’ve played hundreds of rounds together. Preston calls him “a great influence” on his career.
“He cares about our family. He always wants to know how we’re doing, how we’re progressing,” Preston said.Tony Finau with a young Preston Summerhays. (Courtesy of the Summerhays family)
Finau wasn’t the only TOUR player to offer congratulations. Gary Woodland and Brooks Koepka sent a text to Boyd from The Open Championship. Rory McIlroy congratulated Preston before teeing off in the first round of a recent PGA TOUR event.
Finau, who finished ninth in the final U.S. points standings, is a favorite to earn one of Woods’ four Presidents Cup captain’s picks next month (the top eight earned automatic spots on the roster). He bolstered his candidacy with a ninth-place finish at last week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, where he led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. He now has four top-10s in his last five TOUR starts.
Finau is a strong candidate to get a pick because of his consistent play and strong ball-striking. He has 25 top-10 finishes in the previous three PGA TOUR seasons and has played in the past three TOUR Championships. His average FedExCup finish in those three seasons is 10.7. He finished in the top 25 in both Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green last season.
Finau’s strong debut in international team competition also helps his candidacy. He was one of just four Americans with a winning record at last year’s Ryder Cup. He went 2-1 at Le Golf National, including a 6-and-4 win in his singles match with Tommy Fleetwood.
If Finau is picked, it will mean double duty for Boyd Summerhays. He has been coaching Finau since 2014, after his own professional career came to an end. Finau graduated from the Korn Ferry Tour that year. He’s been on the PGA TOUR ever since, never finishing outside the top 50 in the FedExCup.
“Boyd’s been a great mentor to me, he’s been a great teacher and he’s been a great friend,” Finau said. “We’ve been through a lot together. He’s helped me fine-tune my game, fine-tune my golf swing and fine-tune the mental side of my game. He’s been a huge part of what I’ve been able to accomplish.”
Finau said his instructor’s son possesses “the confidence to be a champion.”
“I've played a lot of rounds of golf with him, and to see him play, and to see kind of his swag, and taking his game to another level this summer has been a lot of fun to watch,” Finau said.Tony Finau and Preston Summerhays FaceTime each other after Preston won the U.S. Junior Amateur. (Courtesy of the Summerhays family)
Preston also plays with many of the TOUR players who live in his hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona. That experience has undoubtedly paid dividends.
“Preston’s always known he is good because he’s been winning junior tournaments, but when he plays with TOUR players he also gets to see how far he has to go,” Boyd said. “He’s very confident in himself, but he still has the humility because he knows what he has to do better. … It gives him a clear picture of what he has to do.”
Finau hails from Utah, as does the Summerhays family (though Boyd and his family have since moved to Arizona). The Summerhayses are a golf family, through and through. Boyd’s grandfather, Pres, was the head coach at the University of Utah. Boyd’s father, Lynn, was the captain of Utah’s golf team. Boyd’s uncle Bruce won on PGA TOUR Champions, and Bruce’s daughter, Carrie, played on the LPGA. Boyd’s younger brother, Daniel, has two runners-up on the PGA TOUR and now plays on the Korn Ferry Tour.
Boyd encouraged Preston to play other sports, and not simply fall into the family’s preferred pursuit, but the pull toward golf was too strong. Preston’s first memory of the game is accompanying his father to the course with a loaf of bread to feed the ducks while his father practiced.
Boyd’s playing career came to an end after playing several events on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada in 2012. Preston was 9 years old when caddied for his father in a tournament in Canada. “The bib was down to his knees,” Boyd said.
Preston videoed Boyd’s rounds, starting his commentary of each shot with, “Here we are in Canada.”
Preston has won the past two Utah Amateurs, becoming the first player to go back-to-back since his uncle, Daniel, in 2000-01. Preston was the youngest winner in the tournament’s history when he won in 2018. Preston also turned heads last year when he shot 65-60 to qualify for the U.S. Amateur; it was the lowest qualifying score for that championship since 2011.
The Junior Presidents Cup is the next step in his promising career.