John Deere Classic interview: Daniel Summerhays

July 13, 2013

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Daniel Summerhays, thanks for joining us after a very successful 9 under 62 in round 3 of the John Deere Classic. Right before you came in we had David Hearn, who you've certainly got a fan in him. He said some very nice things about you, and I'm sure you'll get asked about that, as well. But first if you'd make some comments on your incredible round.

Yeah, thanks. Yeah, it was really fun to get out there. Made a downhill slider for birdie right off the bat and birdied the second hole, and that's how you have to start out at this tournament, apparently this year especially.

But it's a strange feeling starting your day tied for 5th with two other guys, and by the time you tee off you're in 15th place.

But in the past that's kind of made me nervous, but I've learned to just tell myself, okay, it's my turn now. It's my turn to make birdies and get out there, and I think that mentality helped me out there a lot. I putted well, drove the ball very well, and I had a lot of fun interacting with the crowd, try and do that a lot, the kids and the fans and everything.

That's hopefully kind of my mantra. It's not about me, it's about everybody else. It's about them having a good time. I feel lucky to be able to help them have a good time today and make a lot of birdies.

A key point in my round, I would say I made two really nice par putts, one on 12, I ran a putt past a little bit, about a nine footer back down the hill, made that for par.

And then 13 those holes were a critical stretch. 13 I hit a beautiful drive down there, I only had 70 yards and I hit a great wedge shot to five feet straight up the hill and I left it short. But I did a good job of just kind of laughing at myself and not get too flustered, and then I proceeded to hit a really bad tee shot on the next hole, which is a short birdie hole. Hit it over the green, under the tree, and I made about a six footer down the hill for par.

So I think that sequence is where I could have derailed a little bit today, but I didn't, and made two really nice putts on 15 and 16 and then a good birdie on 17 and almost drained another one on 18. It was really fun.

Really looking forward to tomorrow. My three little boys, they would love for me to hold that John Deere trophy up there. This is their favorite stop. They've been talking about it all year, when are we going to John Deere. We were on the airplane coming from Roanoke, Virginia, and somebody asked where my boys they were sitting in the seats by each other, and they said where are you guys going, a guy asked, and Patton, my three year old, says, "We're going to John Deere," and my older boy goes, "No, we're going to Illinois," and he said, "No, we're going to John Deere."

I'll just have a lot of good thoughts in my mind tomorrow, think about my family, think about my boys, and yeah, looking forward to it.

Q. Talk about your mentality. Compare it to how it used to be and now how it is.

Yeah, I think when I'm playing well the mentality is make as many birdies as you can. If you miss a five footer, I think in the past I would have just been like, oh, what a blown opportunity, like the putt I left short on 13, to just say, oh, what a blown opportunity and get mad at myself and down on myself, and instead you just chuckle, say holy cow, how could I do that, and you just brush it off and continue on and say, hey, I'm going to make a bomb somewhere. It's not that you can get it back, but you can definitely find the resolve to do better.

I think there's a quote, I wish I had it written out, but Bobby Jones, he said, there's never been a round of golf that could not have been better. Even if you shoot 59, it could have been better. I've kind of just let that go, just stopped worrying, oh, I should have shot this, I could have done this, and just relish in what I have done.

So I think that mentality has really helped me a lot, not trying to be so perfect, not trying to if I mis hit a shot, not try and analyze it so much, just pick myself up and move on to the next.

But I am, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. I'm playing really well. I know there's going to be obstacles and challenges tomorrow, as there always are. There are always things that stand in your way. But I'm just excited to see what those are and deal with them and continue to learn.

Q. When did you come about that perspective, and is there a psychologist involved or is it just something you learned?

Yeah, I think it ebbs and flows. Sometimes you're really good at it and other times you're not as good at it. But I think over the years things just learning through experience. I've got a really good group of people around me. My wife, she's everything. She helps me she's the one who always tells me how great I am, and coming from someone who you love so much, that means a lot.

My father, he's always been there. He always gives me the big picture. I get so absorbed in the details, and I'll have a chat with him. He was out last week with me, and he just really puts things in perspective.

My caddie, my coach, all these people, I just feel like I have a really good nucleus of people around me, and I think that helps in the mentality.

But it's something you just develop over time.

Q. (Inaudible.)

Not as much, but over the last couple years that's been my effort because it actually relaxes me. Everybody says, oh, stay focused, stay right here, everything. Well, that makes me more nervous. It actually calms me down when I can look people in the eyes out in the crowd and give people thumbs up and actually smile at them, give a kid a high five, that kind of stuff. That calms me down, and I think there's something to that in life, I really do. Get outside yourself and you'll find more confidence, more peace, more tranquility.

Q. Would you say that you've been too hard on yourself? Are you in the process of giving yourself a break and as a result you're playing better?

Probably, yeah. But again, it ebbs and flows. There's been times where I've been just in the same mentality and I've played great, and then you reach for more. You reach for more, oh, I can be even better, and then you start this little downward spiral, and then you hit the bottom, and you're like, okay, I've got to let things go a little bit. The key will be to realize a little bit quicker how to snap back out of it.

Q. When you're not focused on improving your game or actually playing, how do you let steam off?

I only have one outlet in my life now, and that's my three boys. I've got a five year old, a three year old and a one year old, so when I'm done

Q. Do you have tractors all over the place?

Everywhere. Magnet tiles, Legos, it's all over the place. But that's hopefully my trademark. That's what I go to. That's my family. They're everything to me. It doesn't matter what happens tomorrow; Jack and Patton and William are still going to love me. They're going to run to me and give me a big hug.

That is how I relax. Even if it doesn't feel relaxing at the time when you're wrestling them and they're hanging on your neck, but there's nothing better than that.

Q. Did becoming a dad and having the boys change that perspective for you?

Yeah, I think besides my marriage, that's the greatest event in my life is having my boys. And it does, you can't stay sad, you can't stay angry, because it's their life, and you have to teach them and help them along the way. Yeah, I mean, family is everything to me, and hopefully I can just my main goal in life is to be a good dad and hopefully a good golfer along the way, too.

Q. Can you envision the tension of the championship round affecting the camaraderie that you have with the crowd?

No, I don't think so. I think I'll know. If I get too into myself, I'll know, and I'll have to make an effort to get outside myself, sign a couple balls, give them to some fans, a glove, something. You have to find something. Make a joke. I've done a good job of you hit it in the trees and instead of (growling noise), you say, can you believe I hit this ball here? How crazy is that? Let's see what I can do here. Do you want to hit this shot? Just something like that, and it's amazing how it can change your own mindset, as well.

But hopefully I'll make a good effort of that tomorrow, but I'm sure you don't know how it's going to be until you're there, but I'm looking forward to the experience. Yeah, I'm just really excited for tomorrow. I feel like my game is ready, too.

Q. Are you aware of this tournament's history for first time winners?

I mean, they've got all the champions in the locker room, and it seems like a good launching pad for a lot of players. Hopefully I can join that, those portraits on the wall.

Q. You talked about a five footer you missed, but you made almost 150 feet of birdie putts, so where does that rank on great putting rounds you've had?

Yeah, I mean, I didn't really realize all the putts I made until somebody kind of said, oh, have you ever putted that good before? And I was like, yeah, well, of course. And then I started thinking back on the round. I made a 14 footer on the first hole. I helped my feet gain the putting on the second hole by leaving a 30 footer about six feet short, so I made that. And then I made a long bomb on No. 4, probably 60 feet. That was a lot of that number.

But I hit some really close shots, too, for some of those birdies. No. 5 I had three feet. No. 11 I had two feet, stuff like that.

Yeah, it was a good putting round, but I've had one particular putting round where it was well, two or three where it was really like I look at a 25 footer and it was going in. But those were kind of back in my college days a little bit. I shot 60. I had a putt for 59 in college once and just barely, barely missed about a 20 , 25 foot curler.

Then I had another round at Sahalee in the Sahalee Players Championship where it was hit to the middle of the green and make the putt from 20 feet.

Q. How often does your family travel with you and what are the obstacles of traveling with them?

Well, five years ago my wife and I made the decision to buy a motor home, and that's how we've traveled around for four and a half years. I was the pilot, and we would go for seven months at a time one time we did. That was too long. We will never do that long again. But we made the decision that our family is the most important thing.

The most important thing for our boys is to be around their dad and to be around their mom, and I haven't missed a beat of our boys' life. We did the motor home through San Antonio of this year, and we're trying to sell it, if any of you guys can publish that. We're trying to sell it. But our five year old is starting school in August, and so the last two months we've been flying a lot more, staying in hotels.

There's a service out here, Steve Hulka and his family, they do these bins, so we pack two big plastic bins full of balls and toys and craft stuff, all this school stuff, so you kind of can set up home away from home. It's a little more expensive to bring the crew, but that's the investment that we're making.

Then once they start school, we're kind of in a new phase transitioning from the motor home to hotels and airplanes, but right now the thrill of a three year old and a five year old in an airplane and in a hotel is unmatched. I mean, you should hear it. It's pretty hysterical on the airplane; when we take off, it's a lot of excitement.

But it's great. That's just kind of the effort that my wife and I are making, and I give all the credit to her, as well. She's raised three boys on the road. New grocery store, new park, new everything every week, new car. She's always adapting, and she's done an incredible job.

Q. When is the last time you held the lead going into the final round? And did the kids do Big Dig?

Oh, yeah.

Q. Did someone influence you, the way you play with the crowd?

Yeah, I don't know if Fuzzy comes to mind, but you see Chi Chi and you see all these guys, Trevino, and that is. I think there is something about that, especially for my personality. You know, everybody is different. Tiger, all these guys, they're different. Their comfort zone is staying with they need to be, and for them it's here. For me when I'm not hitting a shot, it's out here, and then I can bring it back.

I'm trying to remember the questions.

Q. Big Dig.

On Tuesday night my five year old exclaimed, "This is the best day ever!" So yeah, they dig the Big Dig, there's no question.

And the last time I held the lead on TOUR and the only time going into the final round was in México last year. I had a one or two shot lead and had a really tough front nine. But I think I'm much more experienced than I was then, and I've learned a lot of how I react under pressure. I think I'll do a good job tomorrow.

Q. Will the three year old and five year old be out?

My five year old, he watched nine holes each of the last two days. We didn't let him come out today because mom wasn't feeling quite as good, but he knows exactly what's going on. He walked all nine holes on the back nine yesterday. It was kind of funny, I was walking on 14 tee the first round I hit a bad tee shot where I'm holding his hand walking from 13 green to 14 tee, and he says, "Hey dad, don't hit it out of bounds today over there." I didn't hit it out of bounds, but it was up on the hill, definitely not in position, so it was kind of funny. Something you should never say to a golfer, but coming from your son you kind of chuckle at it. Don't hit it out of bounds, all you've got to do is hit it over here. Okay, buddy.

But yeah, I'm sure they'll be asking me how many birdies I made. They always tell me before every round, they say, make lots of birdies, and I report back how many birdies I make each day.

Q. Do you have your passport with you?

I do. Always.

Q. Looking ahead, do you make the trip over to the British?

I'll answer that tomorrow. Yeah, of course I would, no question. I would definitely go. Any major championship you can play in, you have to.

Q. Would you bring the family?

You know, I don't think we have a passport for our youngest one year old, so the boys may have to stay, but we may be able to find a babysitter between the grandparents. Maybe my wife will join me.

DOUG MILNE: I just wanted to draw a potential parallel when Craig asked about influences. Bruce, how much of an impact was he? His attitude seems to really reflect yours as far as calmness and what's going to be is going to be kind of thing. Did you draw a lot from him?

DANIEL SUMMERHAYS: You know, actually he was always a great example, but as far as one on one advice and stuff like that, really didn't have too much. But as far as kind of paving the way for me, I do think so because everybody I talked to coming out when I turned pro was, oh, what's your relationship to Bruce. Oh, Bruce is the greatest guy. Oh, he's so nice. So in that respect, he really paved the way for me.

But a lot of the things I've learned have come from my immediate circle.

Daniel, keep it up. We hope to have you right back here tomorrow.