Arizona State's Grace Summerhays writing next chapter of family's golf legacy

·6 min read

Missy Farr-Kaye had a proposal.

Arizona State had lost one of its top golfers over the summer when two-time All American Linn Grant chose to go professional. As a result, the Sun Devils’ head coach asked Grace Summerhays in December if she would be interested in enrolling early.

A top national recruit, Summerhays flourished on the amateur level, becoming the youngest winner of the Utah Women’s Amateur at 16, qualifying for the U.S. Girl's Junior Open at 15 and winning the Utah PGA Junior Series Major Championship. So she was confident she could make an immediate impact in Tempe, and took Farr-Kaye up on her offer.

“She’s not afraid of a challenge,” said her father Boyd, who coaches PGA Tour professionals including Tony Finau. “She’s grown up in that competitive environment where you’re competing every day. She didn’t shy away from it. If she came in and thought she was going to be able to play and she wasn’t good enough, she would have figured out a way to get good enough to get on that team.”

Summerhays didn’t have to worry about that, as the freshman proved herself right by solidifying a place in ASU's lineup. She is a key part of the Sun Devils’ chase for a ninth NCAA national championship, racking up results from finishing fourth in her first event — The Match in The Desert — to tying for 10th at the NCAA Regional in Stillwater, Okla.

Her family’s legacy in the sport is extensive, something she has recognized throughout her career. Relatives including her father and uncle played professionally, her great-grandfather served as the head golf coach at Utah and her brother Preston, a golfer on ASU’s men’s team, earned a sponsor’s exemption to the 2022 WM Phoenix Open.

But Grace is focused on charting her own legacy. Eventually, she wants to go professional and be the No. 1 player in the world. But first, the goal is to use her experience to help bring another trophy to the Thunderbirds Golf Facility.

“Anytime you have a little bit of success, it goes in the memory bank,” Summerhays said. “You look at tour pros: the more they win, the more comfortable they are. So if I’m in a stressful situation or something, I can look back on that and it also helps with confidence. It’s hard to have extreme confidence if you haven’t won.”

As the first Sun Devils player to tee off in the tournament, Summerhays struggled early Friday by earning a triple bogey on her first hole, but she rebounded with three birdies across 18 holes for a score of four-over-72.

The Scottsdale native continued her upward trajectory in the second round by shooting a 73 at Grayhawk Golf Club to help the Sun Devils move from 16th place to tied for ninth (+16), as of Saturday afternoon.

For those around the program, they aren't surprised at Summerhays' performance, which helped ASU improve by 12 strokes from Friday to Saturday.

While Summerhays has played in just eight tournaments this season and earned ASU's third-highest stroke average (74.85), her composure on the course has impressed the Sun Devils and demonstrated a fit in the team’s championship culture.

“Honestly, I always forget that she has been here since January because it feels like she has been a part of the team for so long,” senior Alexandra Forsterling said. “She brings so much fun into the team. I love being around her. I can learn so much from her and she can learn from me or from us.”

Since arriving this winter, Summerhays’ strength off the tee hasn’t been the only asset she’s provided to ASU. She quickly became one of the team’s vocal leaders, something that Farr-Kaye noted is unusual for a freshman. Her motivation phrases and relationships with teammates have made her “the spark that we just really didn’t know we needed,” according to the Sun Devils’ head coach.

Summerhays, who played one year at Scottsdale's Chaparral High School, has also made a profound impact in tournaments including the NCAA Stillwater Regional, where she shot three consecutive one-over-72 rounds to finish with ASU 's third-best score.

“She has a competitiveness that is unique and fun to watch,” Farr-Kaye said. “No matter what she was shooting, she was never going to give up. Nobody was ever going to have to say to her, ‘C’mon, c’mon you can do it. C’mon, hang in there.’”

That drive links back to her childhood, when she made the switch from swimming to golf. Boyd, who spoke via phone with the Republic from the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., remembers Grace training with Preston and six-to-seven junior students who flew in for a few days of training.

She was the only girl during these sessions, an experience that developed her resolve on the course.

“It forced her to compete against players that were bigger, faster, stronger than her,” Boyd said. “She’s done that for so many years that one of her best aspects is that she doesn’t get intimidated… she was getting to be around elite players at a young age (and) since she was so competitive, she thrived in that situation of trying to catch up to some of these boys.”

Summerhays eventually started to beat some of them, and grew her career by winning numerous tournaments and trying out for qualifying events, including some for the Korn Ferry Tour, the development tour of the PGA Tour.

Meanwhile, her main training partner growing up started finding success as well. Grace has enjoyed watching Preston develop into the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and earn First-Team All-Pac-12 honors. Both will have the unique opportunity to compete just 10 minutes from home, as ASU ’s Men’s Team won the Stockton Regional and will fight for a national title starting next Friday at Grayhawk.

But for now, the focus is on Grace, who is embracing the experience of playing for one of the top programs in women's college golf. Not only do her teammates push her to improve, but also they provide the family-like team atmosphere that she missed when taking online classes in high school.

She has that now. But more importantly, ASU has her.

“The schedule that we have and the players that we play against, it’s hard not to get better,” Summerhays said.

Team standings through two rounds of the NCAA Women's Golf Championship:

1. Stanford (+5)

2. Oregon (+9)

T3. Auburn (+10)

T3. UCLA (+10)

5. LSU (+11)

6. Texas A&M (+13)

7. Florida State (+15)

T8. Arizona State (+16)

T8. Southern California (+16)

10. Georgia (+18)

Individual standings through two rounds of the NCAA Women's Golf Championship:

1. Rose Zhang, Stanford (-6)

T2. Beth Lillie, Virginia (-2)

T2. Megan Schofill, Auburn (-2)

T6. Bohyun Park, Texas (E)

T6. Candice Mahe, Georgia (E)

T6. Ingrid Lindblad, LSU (E)

T6. Chiara Tamburlini, Ole Miss (E)

T6. Sofie Kibsgaard Nielsen, Oregon (E)

T16. Ashley Menne, ASU (+1)

T19. Calynne Rosholt, ASU (+2)

T41. Grace Summerhays, ASU (+5)

T56. Alexandra Forsterling, ASU (+7)

T78. Alessandra Fanali, ASU (+9)

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona State's Summerhays writing new chapter of family golf legacy