Golf fans in Utah have several reasons to watch the 78th US Women’s Open, which begins Thursday and runs through Sunday.
First, the tournament for the first time is at Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of the most scenic and iconic golf courses in the world.
“I usually tell (people) I am from Arizona, but I still got a lot of Utah in me. Our family appreciates all the support we get from Utah.” — US Women’s Open entrant Grace Summerhays, an Arizona State golfer
Second, a couple of native and/or adopted Utahns are in the field playing as amateurs: BYU’s Allysha Mae Mateo and Arizona State’s Grace Summerhays.
Both players have said playing in the US Women’s Open, and at Pebble Beach for the first time, has been a lifelong dream.
Coincidentally, a couple weeks before qualifying for the tournament at Gainey Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale, Grace and her younger brother, Cameron, asked their father, Boyd, if there was any way they could go to Pebble Beach this summer and check that iconic course off their bucket list.
“That’s my favorite place in all the world, and I have told my kids that for several years. So when Grace and Cameron asked, I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ I had totally forgotten that the Women’s Open was there,” Boyd Summerhays told the Deseret News in early June. “So when Grace qualified and I saw it was Pebble Beach, I kind of got choked up a little bit. It is going to be really, really special.”
Boyd’s oldest son, two-time Utah State Amateur champion Preston Summerhays, played in the US Open last month at Los Angeles Country Club but did not make the cut.
“Obviously, I am extremely proud of both of them,” said Boyd, also well-known for being PGA Tour star Tony Finau’s swing coach. “They have both worked so hard for so many years. This is really an exciting (summer) for me. I expect them to play well.”
Boyd will be on Grace’s bag Thursday, his daughter confirmed.
Grace was born in Utah before moving to Scottsdale with her family when she was a child.
The family still spends its summers in Utah, where parents Boyd and his wife, Barbara, were born and raised in the Farmington area. Grace won the 2020 Utah Women’s State Amateur when she was 16, the youngest champion in the event’s 114 years.
“I usually tell (people) I am from Arizona, but I still got a lot of Utah in me,” Grace said last Friday, just before her entire family left Utah to travel to California for the tournament. “Our family appreciates all the support we get from Utah.”
Cameron and Preston have a rare summer weekend off from competitive golf, so they will be at the Monterrey Peninsula for the tournament to cheer on their sister as well. The list of family members scheduled to attend includes both sets of her grandparents and some aunts, uncles and cousins.
“The biggest emotion I have is excitement. I have wanted to play in a pro event for a while now. To have my first one be a US Open is pretty cool,” Grace said. “I am excited about where it is being held. First time at Pebble for the US Women’s Open, which is pretty special. And then having my dad on the bag, and having my whole family there, I can’t wait.”
Goal is to go far
Grace said her first goal this week is to make the cut, and then strive to be the low amateur.
“That would be a pretty cool accomplishment,” she said. “I try not to get my expectations too high since it is my first US Open and I know the course is going to be played hard. But making the cut and finishing as low am would be pretty cool to achieve.”
The whole family was scheduled to play Pebble Beach together on Saturday, then Grace had an 18-hole practice round set for Sunday. The plan hatched last week was to play nine holes only on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Grace isn’t sure how her game fits Pebble Beach, but she’s optimistic because she’s been playing pretty well lately. She missed qualifying for the US Women’s Amateur by one shot, so this is easily the highlight of her summer.
“I honestly don’t know the course that well. I know they have small greens, so ball-striking will be huge,” she said. “My driver is one of my better clubs, so I think that will help me a lot, because I don’t think the course is long. I just think it’s tight.
“And then my short game feels really good,” she continued. “I think that will help a ton.”
Grace said her plan right now is to exhaust her eligibility at ASU, then turn pro. She and Boyd both noted that the PGA and LPGA tours are giving better opportunities to college players to make it more enticing to stay in school.
Mateo made his mark at BYU
Mateo, a five-year starter for the Cougars, intends to turn pro and attend LPGA Tour qualifying school this fall. The native of Honolulu, Hawaii, also had an incredible academic record at BYU, graduating in April from BYU’s Marriott School of Business with a Master of Accountancy degree and a 3.94 grade point average.
BYU women’s golf coach Carrie Summerhays Roberts will caddy for Mateo.
“Qualifying for the US Open is so exciting for me, and to play at Pebble Beach makes it even better,” Mateo said in a school news release. “I am excited to play in a tournament with so much history and to test my game against the best players in the world.”
Roberts, who is the cousin of Grace Summerhays’ father, Boyd, said she couldn’t be prouder of Mateo, who had 30 top-15 finishes in college golf, including two individual wins.
“I am super excited for Allysha Mae to experience one of the premier events in women’s golf,” Roberts said in the release. “This will be the biggest event she has ever played in and will be an amazing opportunity for her to get a taste of playing in a major championship on the LPGA Tour.”
Utah’s history in the US Women’s Open
The last Utahn to play in the US Women’s Open was former Weber State golfer and five-time Utah Women’s State Amateur champion Kelsey Chugg, who played in the 2018 event at Shoal Creek, Alabama. Chugg, now the associate director of Salt Lake City Golf, didn’t make the cut that year after earning the invitation as the 2017 US Women’s Mid-Amateur champion.
Lone Peak High graduate Annie Thurman Young played in the US Women’s Open in 2003 when she was an Oklahoma State golfer and in 2007 as a pro and a member of the developmental Futures Tour that year.
Young, now Tulsa’s golf coach, missed the cut in 2003 by just two strokes.
The aforementioned Roberts played in the 2000 and 2001 US Women’s Opens during her own playing career for BYU.