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SALT LAKE CITY — Preston Summerhays' run on the local golf scene is already well known, even at the young age of 16 years.
He went national this week, including an appearance on FS1.
Summerhays stormed to the U.S. Junior Amateur title Saturday, defeating challenger Bo Jin from China, 2 and 1 in the 36-hole final at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
The two-time Utah State Amateur champion was already the youngest state am winner in Utah Golf Association history, and naturally the youngest two-time champ, as well.
Now he adds a prestigious national championship to his credit.
“I’ve had this goal for this year to win,” Summerhays said. “I think just accomplishing that goal means everything to me.”
With the win, Summerhays qualified for next month’s U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst Country Club in North Carolina, in addition to next year’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club.
“I wasn’t really up at all in the match,” Summerhays said of the back-nine run. “I was up after one in the first 18, and then I was up after 21.
“But really, it was mainly just we were all square or I was down. I think to get that momentum going on the last nine, that was a huge part of the match.”
Jin went 3-up with a birdie on the par-4, 374-yard 10th hole, but Summerhays rallied on the back nine, including back-to-back birdies on Nos. 17 and 18.
He then hit the turn with a new set of confidence, dropping birdies on three of the first five holes of the second 18 to take his first lead of the match on the par-4, 520-yard 22nd. He went 2 up with back-to-back birdies on the 28th and 29th holes; and after Jin followed with a birdie to win the par-5, 508-yard 31st, Summerhays clinched the match, 2 and 1 with a birdie at the penultimate hole.
Summerhays, who was born in Utah, lives in Arizona during the school year and spends every summer in the Beehive State with his family, including father Boyd, who moonlights as Tony Finau's swing coach.
Finau is so close to the family that Preston Summerhays refers to him as “Uncle Tony.” The West High graduate even texted “good luck” to his “nephew,” in the middle of his run at the British Open.
“He’s always been one of my biggest supporters,” the teen said. “He’s always wanted to know how I’m doing, how my golf is going. He just wants to know, like any family member. Having him in my corner is great.”
He also became the youngest competitor to compete in the Utah Championship when he teed off with a sponsor's exemption at the Korn Ferry Tour's local stop in Farmington.
Summerhays' route to the title also include a 4 and 3 win over England’s Joseph Pagdin in the semifinals, and a 2-up victory over Austin Greaser of Vandalia, Ohio, in the quarterfinal match of the 64-man match-play event. The teenager shot even-par 142 to finish tied for 10th in the two-day stroke play tournament that set up the match-play bracket.
“He’s a polite kid, makes us proud off the course,” Boyd Summerhays said of his son. “But the cool thing to me is for people to see the fire he has inside. You saw how bad he wanted it. You want him to be a good kid off the course, and obviously he’s a fierce competitor.
“For me to watch that and see his confidence build and game continue to build, he tends to take failure and turn it into something positive.”