Preston Summerhays wins junior amateur title

Preston Summerhays after winning the U.S. Junior Amateur title. (Submitted photo)

Scottsdale’s Preston Summerhays, 16, captured the U.S. Junior Amateur Saturday, July 20.

The week before, he set the record for the youngest two-time winner of the Utah Men’s State Amateur, and now he can add a prestigious amateur golf titles to his expanding list of accomplishments, according to a press release.

Mr. Summerhays, a Chaparral High School student, entered the 150-player field made up of the best junior golfers worldwide. He finished tied for 10th in the stroke play competition before winning 4 and 2 against Takafumi Shimoji of Japan in the Round of 64.

In the Round of 32, he won 1-up in a tight match against Michael Brennan from Virginia before advancing to the round of 16 against, 2018 runner-up, Akshay Bhatia of North Carolina.

In another close match, Mr. Summerhays made par on the final hole for the win and birth into the quarterfinals against Austin Greaser of Ohio. After 11 holes, he found himself down by 3. He then reeled off wins at 12, 13, 14, 16 and 18 to prevail 2-up.

In the semifinals, he trailed by two after seven holes against Joseph Pagdin from England. He responded by winning the next four holes (8-11) with three birdies and a par. He added wins at 13 and 14 (birdie-par) before closing out the match with a par on the 15th hole.

In the championship, Mr. Summerhays faced Bo Jin of China. The match swung back and forth through the first 18 holes before entering the final nine all square. Mr. Summerhays then went on a run with two birdies on 10 and 11 to go 2-up.

“I think just to get that momentum going on the last nine, that was a huge part of the match,” he said in a prepared statement. “But it clearly wasn’t over yet.”

Mr. Jin won the 13th hole to narrow the gap to 1-down. They traded pars on 14 and 15, and on 16, Mr. Jin had an opportunity to level the match with a six-foot par attempt that barely missed.

No. 17 also was shaping up for Mr. Jin. He found the fairway and Summerhays faced an approach from the rough over trees.

“It wasn’t a terrible lie, and I had 174 [yards] to the pin,” Mr. Summerhays said.

“Going downwind, downhill, it really didn’t play 174, it played 145 to the front edge. I was like, I could get a pitching wedge over that tree and land it front edge and roll it back. I hit it great and it ended up going to 8 feet.”

Mr. Jin hit the green and gave his birdie putt a run, but missed his par attempt to leave the door open for Summerhays to win with a birdie putt, which he swept in for the championship.

“That’s just a shot of a lifetime at the right time in the biggest tournament,” Boyd Summerhays, Preston’s father, said about his son’s approach on No. 17.

“He’ll never forget that and it’ll give him confidence when he’s in a tough spot. When he hit it, I texted my wife and said that was the greatest shot of his life.”

With the win, Preston Summerhays is exempt to play in next year’s US Open as well as the upcoming U.S. Amateur Championship Aug. 11-18 and he is competing in the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship.

Coincidentally, both Preston Summerhays and Mr. Jin have sisters (Grace Summerhays and Jiarui “Joyce” Jin) who are competing in the 71st U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.

Preston Summerhays took a moment to facetime Tony Finau, who works closely with Boyd on his game. As the two spoke, it was hard to tell who was more excited.

“I’m so proud of you, man,” Mr. Finau said during the call, per a release.

“I’m getting chills just talking to you. How’s it feel to be a champ? All your hard work and dedication is paying off. This is just the beginning, bro. I’m so happy for you, man. I gotta take care of my job tomorrow now.”

Preston Summerhays referred to Mr. Finau as his uncle, saying he plays on the PGA Tour.

“He’s always been great to me,” he said. “I’ve played hundreds of rounds with him and been able to kind of feed off what he’s doing, what I need to do better in my game to get to his level.”

Preston Summerhays becomes the third Arizona resident to win the tournament in recent years. Charlie Beljan won in 2002 at Atlanta Athletic Club and Philip Francis won in 2006 Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club in California.

In local Junior Golf Association of Arizona tournaments so far this year, Preston Summerhays has two wins, a second-place finish, two third-place finishes, a fifth and two other top-10s.

He sits in second place in the 2019 Player of the Year race, and in all, has played in more than 40 JGAA tournaments since beginning in the Boys 10 and Under division back in 2012, a release states.

“On behalf of the JGAA, we would like to congratulate Preston on his US Junior Amateur victory,” Scott McNevin, executive director of the JGAA, said in a prepared statement.

“On the biggest stage in junior golf he continued to play great, match after match, en-route to his championship at the Inverness Club.”

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