It was the 35th hole of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship finals, and the pressure was starting to mount.
With the tenuous comfort of a 1-up lead, 16-year-old Preston Summerhays grabbed a pitching wedge from 174 yards out and swung as hard as he could. Unlike his tee shot, which had flown wayward into some heavy rough, Preston knew where this one was going. His ball started under one tree and floated over another, landed on a downslope on the front edge of the green and kicked forward, settling eight feet below the hole.
“How can you do that?” screamed one TV commentator. “Unbelievable!”
A few moments later, Preston’s ball was at the bottom of the cup, and the biggest title of his young career had been secured. Boyd Summerhays, Preston’s father and a GOLF Top 100 Teacher, met his son on the green and shared an emotional hug.
“Thank you,” Preston told him, “for everything.”
Being a golf coach at the highest level is a uniquely challenging task, requiring one to be equal parts scientist, motivational speaker, corrections officer, technician and therapist.
It’s made all the more complex by the additional role Boyd Summerhays plays to Preston: dad.
If good golf is indeed a little more nature than nurture, the secret may lie in the Summerhays genes. Boyd’s grandfather — and Preston’s namesake — was head golf coach at the University of Utah. His son — Boyd’s father, Lynn — later became captain of the same team. Boyd’s uncle, Bruce Summerhays Sr., is a three-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions, and Bruce’s daughter Carrie is a former LPGA Tour player. Boyd himself was a No. 1 nationally ranked junior, and, like his brother Daniel, a former PGA Tour player.
Though golf was ever present in young Preston’s household, his father never made it a source of pressure.
“If you try to force it on them,” Boyd says, “they may end up resenting you and the game. I want my kids to love the game for themselves.”
Preston fell hard for golf watching his father practice. From the age of three, he would go to the course with a putter, a driver and a loaf of bread. He’d hit shots in between feeding the ducks and riding in the cart. Over time, Boyd began challenging Preston and his two other children, Grace and Cam, to family competitions.
“I wanted to be just like my dad,” says Preston. “And I wanted to beat him, too.”
That underlying love of golf and competition is the foundation of Preston’s career. Once a kid develops a passion for the game, it’s time to start introducing technique, nurturing their skills and establishing expectations — discreetly.
“Giving your kids that feeling of progressing, of succeeding, is so important,” Boyd says. “If they feel like they’re not improving, they may get discouraged and quit.”
The more seriously Preston took the game, the more the line between fatherhood and coaching began to bend and blur. Preston has grown up traveling the country with his dad and navigating the highest levels of competitive junior golf. Often, he goes to his father — and his coach — for advice. It remains a peculiar challenge for both of them: Decoding when a boy needs his dad and when a golfer needs his swing coach.
It’s a balance, the pair say. And though it’s not always easy, they’re learning more and more each day. Boyd’s advice to fellow golf-loving fathers with golf-loving kids is simple: Keep things in perspective. They’ll always be your child first and a golfer second. Instill in them the values the game teaches.
“All I’ve ever wanted,” he says, “is for my kids to genuinely love golf and have a strong work ethic. To give something their all, and to be proud of that.”
Preston’s win at the 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship was the culmination of his hard work. With brother Cam, 12, and sister Grace — who, last year, at age 14, became the youngest female player ever to qualify and reach match play in the Utah State Men’s Amateur Championship — up next, the Summerhays golf legacy will continue for years to come.
Through it all, watching from the sidelines and the driving range will be Boyd, a father to his kids and a coach to his students — in that order.
“Boyd is always a dad first,” says Tony Finau, another of Summerhays’ star students who’s spent plenty of time with Preston. “They’ve each learned so much about themselves and each other. The game draws them so close, and they’re able to focus on trying to get great at something. Together.”