U.S. Junior Amateur champ Preston Summerhays on the bag for sister, Grace, in U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur
Preston Summerhays won last week’s U.S. Junior Amateur in impressive style. It came during a stretch of 21 rounds in 14 days.
Understandably the 17-year-old had to take a much-needed break Monday as his sister, Grace, began her first ever USGA event at the U.S. Girls’ Junior in Wisconsin.
Once rested, the recent champ — who originally planned to play the Pacific Coast Amateur this week — picked up Grace’s bag and has been on it since Tuesday’s second round of stroke play.
“It’s really special,” Preston said. “We practice and train every day all the time. So for me to be able to help her at her biggest tournament, it means a lot to me and it gets me excited to think that I’m helping her to chase her goals, too.”
The siblings smiled and joked with each other many times during Tuesday’s 1-over 73.
“It’s like having my best friend with me all day on the course,” Grace said. “I just love having him on the bag.”
For Preston, it’s important to keep things loose out there.
“It’s just golf, it’s a big deal because it’s a big tournament and we want to do well, but at the end of the day it’s just golf,” Preston said. “Putting too much pressure on each other is never going to help anyone.”
They have experience at this, as he’s caddied for his younger sister about 20 times in the past according to their father and swing coach, Boyd Summerhays.
Summerhays, of course coaches, Tony Finau among others in the pro ranks.
For a father, to watch both of his kids inside the ropes this week is just something that can’t be beat.
“Seeing your kids succeed, I’ve never had a better feeling in my life,” Boyd said. “I’ve always felt that way, at different levels when they first were having success on a local and state level. It was the same buzz for me, it always has been, just seeing my kids work hard and be dedicated to something.”
And dedicated they are. Both practice together frequently at their home club, McDowell Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona. Preston estimates their practice days range from 3-10 hours in length depending on what they’re working on.
“When we practice, I would say that we’re just having a competitive drill, usually we’ll just have a putting match or we’ll do something with a technique drill and make it a game,” Preston said. “Once we go to on the course we just compete, she’ll either play from the back tees if she wants a good match to test her game or she’ll play from the up tees. But we’re always competing.”
Preston averages shooting 5 to 6 under at the club. Grace, not quite that good.
So, does he give her strokes?
“We never give strokes,” Preston said, “ever.”
They’re a competitive family. And one that Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott has taken notice of.
Boyd Summerhays coaches @tonyfinaugolf His kids are ridiculously great at golf. I think P shot 65-60 last year to qualify for the am. Congrats Preston!! And lookout for his sister Grace. She will win big next. It’s not fair the way these golf genes flow in their family https://t.co/M1fayhvRNE
— ted scott (@jtedscott) July 20, 2019
Preston did shoot 65-60 at that qualifier last year, with his dad on the bag.
And his dad felt understandably proud of Preston last week when he joined the historic list of past Junior Amateur winners that includes Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.
“To see him perform at such an extremely high level and see him pull off some amazing clutch shots, I mean nothing is better than being with your kids while they’re doing it and seeing it happen,” Boyd said.
Boyd studiously and enthusiastically documented Tuesday’s round with an Instagram story of over 50 posts, each one detailed with emojis and many including his energetic commentary on video shots.
On one iron shot he said, “go right at it, good sound, stay there please!”
He jokingly admitted to begging to the ball a few times in his story.
But who wouldn’t?
Though entertaining for many of us, the Instagram story is primarily a helpful way for his kids to look at video of how they did.
“I’ve always followed my kids around and posted. Always done it as a way for them to watch their rounds and see how I kind of thought about their rounds,” Boyd said. “Instead of having to go back and talk about it (remember shots) they can see it and hear what I’m thinking and feeling. They’re like journal entries.”
And it’s quite a story that Team Summerhays is authoring this week.
On Wednesday, Grace, as the 42nd seed, won her match against 23rd seed Sarah Arnold by a whopping margin of 5&4.
She moves on to the Round of 32 on Thursday.
For the 15-year-old, having her older brother on the bag is a huge plus.
“He knows my game very well which helps and he just has the best personality for a great caddie,” Grace said. “He is very chill and just overall makes me feel comfortable and confident out there.”
Preston’s putting ability is a big strength, particularly the green-reading he brings to the table as the looper this week.
“As the player, she has to read it first, see it, and then she asks (Preston) for confirmation,” Boyd said. “If it’s right then he says, ‘yeah, perfect.’ If it’s not right, then maybe he shows her why, from a different view, it could be a little different read than what she first saw.”
That’s how coach Summerhays does it with Preston when he loops for him.
“It’s always nice to have confirmation from someone that’s a great putter,” Boyd said of Preston.
And a national champ and part-time looper.