"I don't know how much longer I'll play professional golf, I honestly don't," Summerhays said recently. "Because if my family needs me to be there, I will. … My parents have given me everything and I'll do anything for my kids as well."
That attitude stems from a memorable meal at Taco Time in Kaysville. Amid tears and burritos, a week before they were married as BYU students in December 2005, Daniel and Emily pledged that his pro golf career would become their mutual pursuit. They've continued to approach it that way, through the arrival of three sons and a daughter and nationwide travel on two tours.
They drove a motor home more than 125,000 miles in an initial phase of tour life, and now Summerhays' family flies to accompany him as often as possible. They spent three weeks together in the spring, including his first Masters appearance, but such absences from school will become impossible as the children get older.
"Every year is a new challenge," Summerhays said. "There may be a time when the family can't travel around with me as much and I don't know how I'll be able to handle that in my heart, because I'm a dad first and foremost."
Summerhays, 33, has played well enough in the past 10 years to give himself options going forward. Since turning pro after his surprising win in a 2007 Web.com Tour event as a BYU golfer, he has earned $9 million.
Many golfers, including Utahns such as Mike Reid and Dan Forsman, have made the demanding lifestyle work for them during long careers. The difference in this era is that tour purses are so big that golfers can make a lifetime's earnings in a shorter time. Then again, that golfers can play their sport much longer than other athletes with a fresh opportunity to compete on the senior circuit once they turn 50 makes it rare for anyone to walk away in his 30s.
If he stops playing soon, Summerhays would be forgoing a lot of potential earnings, as anyone with a BYU finance degree would understand. No player who ever came through the Cougar golf program was more driven than Summerhays, longtime coach Bruce Brockbank has said, and golf to him never has been merely a way to make a living.
So for him to even think about giving up pro golf illustrates his family commitment. He could use his finance background and golf expertise in another job, such as becoming a golf teacher in the tradition of his brother Boyd, and that $9 million is a healthy foundation even with significant travel expenses subtracted.
The variable that's in play for Summerhays right now is PGA Tour players have to prove themselves every year. He's 134th in the FedEx Cup standings; in mid-August, the top 125 golfers will advance to the playoffs and earn exemptions for the 2017-18 season, which starts in October. The others will compete for 25 spots awarded via the Web.com Tour Finals.
Summerhays could have clinched his card for next season with a better finish in the recent Memorial Tournament in Ohio, but he faded to a tie for 10th place.
He missed the 36-hole cut in last week's tour stop in Memphis, so he's hoping the U.S. Open setting revives his game. Last June, he enjoyed playing in one of the final groups on Sunday, when he experienced nervousness that reminded him of having to requalify for the tour after his rookie season in 2011.
That's a feeling he would rather not deal with again in September. If Summerhays ever walks away from the PGA Tour, he wants it to be his own choice.
Daniel Summerhays' U.S. Open history
Year Site Scores Finish
2016 Oakmont 74-65-69-74 T8
2015 Chambers Bay 70-67-78-70 T27
2010 Pebble Beach 79-77 MC
Daniel Summerhays' major history
Year Tournament Site Finish
2017 Masters Augusta National T46
2016 PGA Championship Baltusrol 3rd
2016 British Open Royal Troon T59
2016 U.S. Open Oakmont T8
2015 U.S. Open Chambers Bay T27
2014 PGA Championship Valhalla T33