Updated April 10, 2017
On a July day in New Jersey, Eagle Scout Daniel Summerhays got the news he’d long been dreaming of.
By finishing third in the 2016 PGA Championship, one of golf’s four major tournaments, Summerhays had qualified for the 2017 Masters Tournament.
That major ended April 9.
How did Daniel Summerhays do in the Masters?
Round 1, Thursday: Summerhays finished the day tied for 29th, with a 2-over-par 74. He almost aced the 12th hole!
Round 2, Friday: Summerhays finished the day tied for 35th, with a 3-over-par 75. He made the cut!
Round 3, Saturday: Summerhays finished the day tied for 43rd, with a 3-over-par 75. Thirty family members have been there to cheer him on!
Round 4, Sunday: Summerhays finished the tournament tied for 46th, with a 1-over-par 73 on the final day. See his scorecard here.
A conversation with Daniel Summerhays
With this Eagle Scout’s career on an upswing, I thought it an appropriate time to talk with him about his Scouting memories, thoughts on turning pro in golf and tips for lowering your score.
One thing is clear: Even though it’s been 15 years since Summerhays received Scouting’s highest honor (on Jan. 20, 2002, as a member of Crew 9885 of the Great Salt Lake Council), he still carries Scouting values everywhere he goes.
Bryan Wendell: When did you first pick up a golf club?
Daniel Summerhays: My mom has pictures of me when I was 2 or 3 years old, down in our basement. I put a tennis ball on a plastic tee, and I was taking swings at it. Basically when I could walk, I was swinging the club.
B.W.: Growing up, how did you balance your time in Scouting with time on the golf course?
D.S.: My parents made sure our lives were really balanced, so between our golf and sporting life. Some kids were just hanging out with their friends. I was going to Scouts and doing different activities, doing merit badge classes. I owe a lot of credit of being an Eagle Scout to my parents and the balance that they put into my life.
B.W.: Do you have a favorite Scouting memory?
D.S.: One of them was during the Pioneering merit badge. We learned how to tie all these knots, and we made a monkey bridge out of twine at my Scoutmaster’s house. It was this orange twine, and we used all these different knots to build a 40-foot-long monkey bridge. I’ve probably forgotten how to do all the knots now, but that was definitely memorable.
B.W.: What did you do for your Eagle Scout service project?
D.S.: I made about 150 hygiene kits. I collected all the supplies, put all the kits together and donated them to a humanitarian organization. It was a pretty big project. I had the whole neighborhood donating — soaps, shampoos, toothbrushes, toothpaste. Then the humanitarian organization shipped them off to countries in need.
B.W.: How do Scouting values align with professional golf?
D.S.: I think all the values that are in the Scout Law — courteous, kind, helpful, friendly — I think those are great things. You work hard, it’s a game of integrity, it’s a game of honesty. And then just preparation, hard work, doing the things to prepare for a tournament or for a competition.
B.W.: When you turned pro, can you remember what it was like to get your first check at the end of the golf tournament?
D.S.: I remember it vividly. I turned pro after I won as an amateur in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational. And I didn’t collect the $126,000 because I was still an amateur. But the next week in Omaha, Neb., the Cox Classic, I finished, like, 30th place and I made $3,200. I legitimately thought that I was rich. I had never made a check that big in my life. Times have changed, expectations have changed, but I still remember the thrill of that first check coming in.
B.W.: What do you think it’s going to be like to play in your first Masters this year?
D.S.: It’s going to be a realization of a lifelong dream. Just yesterday, I was watching the AFC Championship Game. There was a 10-second little blurb for the Masters, and I get the goosebumps. I’ve always dreamed of playing it, and I really can’t wait.
B.W.: When you’re out on the golf course, what do you and your caddie talk about? Is it always golf or is there time for some joking around and relieving the tension?
D.S.: It’s a good mixture of both. We try and have a lot of fun, keep it light. But at the same time there is that focus. There’s so much to focus on as far as wind and yardage and club selection and strategy that we have fun talking about that kind of stuff. We’ve turned what may seem like monotonous work into a good time.
B.W.: Can you give us a brief description of what a typical week for you looks like leading up to a tournament?
D.S.: I usually arrive Monday. I’ll get to the course and register and kind of get my bearings. Tuesday is a practice day for all the pros. We’ll get out and hit some shots out on the golf course. Put some discs on the greens and putt to some of the discs and guess where they’re going to put the hole locations for the week. And then Wednesday is pro-am day, so I’ll usually be paired with three or four amateurs, and we’ll go and play a four-and-a-half-hour round together. And then the tournament starts Thursday through Sunday, and I’ll either travel Sunday night or Monday morning and start the whole process again.
B.W.: How do you keep from getting frustrated when you hit a poor shot or one that you’re not satisfied with?
D.S.: I think you go through a process. You are able to analyze it objectively. You make a subtle correction, and then you get excited for the next shot. The nice thing about golf and the nice thing about life is there’s always another shot, there’s always another day. And so there’s no use in reflecting on the past when there’s so many opportunities ahead of you.
B.W.: OK, how about some tips for lowering your golf score. Are there any basic things you could tell rookie golfers like me that might help us?
- Correct speed on a putt is about 12 inches past the cup.
- Practice your chipping a lot. That’s where most strokes are lost for an amateur golfer, so spend more time on your short game.
- Find a good instructor. There are some bad instructors, so find a good instructor.
- Swing speed and distance comes from body rotation.
- A lot of my tips are about speed and putting. Usually it’s not your stroke, it’s usually your read on the green. A lot of people never read enough break.
Thanks to Daniel for his insight, and I believe I speak for the Scouting community when I say best of luck this season!
Photos courtesy of PGA Tour.