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FARMINGTON — Between the play of tour regular Patrick Fishburn, who is making a stop at his native Utah Championship a regular occurrence, and the return to professional golf of Daniel Summerhays and Zac Blair, the field at the Korn Ferry Tour's annual stop in the Beehive State already had a decidedly pro-BYU golf flair to it.
After Tuesday's exemptions were announced, the field might as well be painted in blue.
The Utah Championship announced its four sponsor exemptions for this year's event, which will be held Aug. 4-7 at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington.
Along with Summerhays, the 38-year-old former BYU star who briefly joined the coaching ranks at his alma mater Davis High and this past season as a volunteer assistant with the Cougars, exemptions include Peter Kuest, the BYU alum from Fresno, California, who has made five cuts in 10 events on the Korn Ferry Tour; and Carson Lundell, the rising BYU fifth-year senior from Lone Peak who will make his pro tournament debut (as an amateur) to end the summer at Oakridge.
"I'm so grateful for the consideration, and the opportunity to play this tournament in Utah, where I'm from while I still have a year left at BYU," Lundell said Tuesday during a pre-tournament press conference at Oakridge. "I'm so grateful for Tony (Finau, 3-time PGA Tour winner), for Jeff (Robbins of the Utah Sports Commission), and for their support of Utah players, for their ambition to grow the game here."
Lundell is fresh off his junior season where he earned honorable mention All-America selection, claimed medalist honors at the NCAA's Stockton regional, and helped the Cougars advance to the 2022 NCAA championships in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The 24-year-old standout from Alpine contemplated turning pro after last season, when he finished 24th in the PGA Tour University rankings — rankings where the top 15 eligible players earn status on the Korn Ferry Tour or one of the PGA's international tours.
Instead, Lundell jumped into the amateur circuit, first at the Sunnehanna Amateur followed by the Northeast Amateur Invitational in June. He then played in the 118th Trans-Miss Amateur and a U.S. Amateur qualifier in July, and was preparing for the Western Amateur when he got a text and a call from an unknown number while he was practicing at the Cougars' facility at Fox Hollow Golf Club.
It was Finau, the Rose Park native who is soaring on the PGA Tour, calling just before his opening round at the 3M Open to tell Lundell that he had an unrestricted exemption in the Utah Championship for him.
"The Western may be the most elite of amateur tournaments in the world; only the top 250 even have a chance to get into that tournament," said Lundell, who will follow the Utah Championship with the U.S. Amateur. "Going into my final year, this will be an awesome opportunity to see the life I want to have after college — grinding away on the pro circuit, trying to make the Korn Ferry Tour and then PGA Tour some day. It's super cool to have a guy like Tony who followed me from a young age to give me this opportunity. You can't ask for much more."
There's something special about the Utah Championship, too, for golfers who grew up in Utah or played college golf along the Wasatch Front. The only men's tour-sanctioned event in the state is entering its sixth year at Oakridge after moving from Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, and marks something of a homecoming for Kuest, who was born in Fresno but recorded 10 careers wins at BYU before turning pro and winning his first professional tournament at the Utah Open in 2020.
In a season that garnered him $20,519 in prize money, Kuest's best finish came with a T38 effort at the Live and Work in Maine Open in late June.
"This is an incredible opportunity for me to showcase my abilities and to follow my dreams, to play the game I love," said Kuest, who received the same restricted exemption as Summerhays. "I know I'm not from Utah, but every time I play with Tony, he jokes that Utah golf has claimed me. And I'm super grateful for that."
The other unrestricted exemption went to Patrick Flavin, a 26-year-old rising star from Chicago who turned pro in 2018 and had a pair of top-10 finishes in the 2020-21 season.
As for Summerhays, the father of four who retired from the game, went into coaching at his alma mater Davis High for two semesters, then returned to playing professionally at the Utah Championship.
After a season as a volunteer assistant at BYU, Summerhays is back to try to give touring golf another shot. Now healthy and fully healed from ankle surgery that required two screws in his foot, he's out to give tour golf one last shot, balancing Q-school with events like the Utah Championship to see what he has left in the tank.
Eventually, the game may pass him by and he may settle for a college coaching job and caddying for his son Jack and the rest of his children in various junior golf events. But Summerhays thinks he can push for a top-25 finish in Farmington, and will try to squeeze every bit out of his pro career as possible.
"I think I'm a more aggressive player," said Summerhays, who has 19 top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour and finished runner-up in a playoff at the Utah Championship two years ago. "I talk to the BYU guys a lot about having a scarcity mindset vs. an abundance mindset; are you trying to hold on to everything you have because you don't want to lose it, or are you just going to go and get it.
"I definitely see that as an eye-opener and a call to change how I'd go about doing it all."