BYU All American Daniel Summerhays became the first amateur to win a Nationwide Tour event. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- For the second week in a row, history has been made on the Nationwide Tour. Just one week after Jason Day became the Tour's youngest winner, Daniel Summerhays etched his name in the record books by becoming the Tour's first amateur winner with his Sunday victory at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational.
While many may have predicted the pressure would be too much for the 23-year-old rising senior at Brigham Young University, Summerhays was unflappable, posting a seemingly stress-free 2-under 69 to finish at 6-under 278 and two strokes in front of Chad Collins (69) and Chris Nallen (71).
"It's been a really special week," said Summerhays, who put his collegiate career on hold between his freshman and sophomore seasons (2004-05) to embark on a two-year church mission to Chile. "I'll never forget that feeling and that atmosphere. There is nothing like that feeling ... of having people whistle and clap and cheer for you. It makes your heart want to break out of your chest. It feels so good."
Summerhays battled Nallen and Collins throughout the afternoon, with the lead changing hands on several occasions. But while Nallen stumbled with a bogey on the par-3 17th hole and Collins lost a stroke with a bogey on the 18th hole, Summerhays remained steady with birdies on Nos. 10 and 12 on his way to a stellar bogey-free 2-under 33 on the back nine.
"Overall I hit it really, really good today," said Summerhays, who hit 12 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation. "I played such a good back nine. I feel so blessed, so grateful, just to have had the opportunity ... and then to just have been able to stay calm out there and hit really good, aggressive, confident shots."
A better script couldn't have been written for the unique first-year event, which included eight collegiate first team All-Americans who wouldn't have otherwise been eligible for a regular Nationwide Tour stop. Better yet, Summerhays' victory comes in the hometown of Honorary Chairman Jack Nicklaus -- who honed his skills on this same Scarlet Course for the Ohio State University men's golf team on his way to one of the most decorated amateur careers in history.
"Jack (Nicklaus) has always been my favorite player," said Summerhays. "He's a little taller than me, but we're kind of the same strong build. So I've always looked up to him for what he has done and how good he is."
An amateur had never won a Nationwide Tour event prior to Sunday, with runner-up finishes by Jamie Lovemark (2007 Rochester Area Charities Showdown at Somerby) and Charles Howell III (2000 Greensboro Open) the previous best outings. In comparison, the PGA TOUR has had four non-professionals win since 1954, with Phil Mickelson the last to record the feat with his victory at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open.
"I'm still trying to get used to the feeling right now, but it feels really good," said Summerhays, the nephew of Champions Tour member Bruce Summerhays. "Just not only to be the amateur winner but to win a Nationwide Tour event. There's only a handful of guys that ever do that, and to have done it right now is tough to describe."
Despite not being able to collect the $126,000 first-place prize due to his amateur status, Summerhays walks away with a ton of memories from his second career start on Tour. His first came at the 2001 Utah EnergySolutions Championship, where he missed the cut after accepting a Sponsor's Exemption following his victory at the Utah State Amateur Championship. He also has a big decision looming regarding his career.
"The decision to turn professional, it's been a long process to figure out," said Summerhays. "Me and my wife (Emily) and my coach and my brother and my dad ... we've all put in our two cents about what we should do. It's still up in the air. I honestly have no idea what's going to be best for me. But I do think that whatever I choose I'll make work. I think whatever I do, if I just commit myself to getting better and continue to set goals my golf game won't go anywhere."
The runner-up finish was bittersweet for Collins and Nallen. Both were denied their second career win, but each collected more ($100,800) than they earned when they stepped into the winner's circle the first time. Collins -- who has now finished inside the top five the past two weeks -- moves into the 13th spot among The 25, while Nallen is close behind at No. 15.
"He (Summerhays) handled himself wonderfully and hit the shots he needed to and made the putts when he needed to make them," said Nallen. "Give him a bunch of credit for that. My hat's off to him. He played exceptionally well and played smart when he needed to and was aggressive when he needed to be. He's got a great, bright future ahead of him."
Located just a few miles from Tour title sponsor Nationwide's national headquarters, the Scarlet Course proved to be an excellent venue for the 136 professionals and eight amateurs competing this week. The cumulative scoring average at the par-71 layout ended the week at a hefty 73.183, making it the third-toughest course of the season.
"It is a very good test of golf as you can see," said Summerhays. "There were only a few of us under par this week. The Scarlet Course will always have a special place in my heart."
Final-Round News & Notes: Amateur Daniel Summerhays has the option of joining the Nationwide Tour based on his win on Sunday. He has 60 days to declare membership as a professional and be eligible to play the remainder of the 2007 season and all of 2008. Should that 60 days elapse, he can accept membership during the Tour's offseason and before Jan. 1 to be a full member for the 2008 season
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