ATLANTA – After tying for eighth to notch his first career collegiate top-10 finish last week at Isleworth, Arizona State freshman Preston Summerhays texted Sun Devils head coach Matt Thurmond.
This is just the beginning.
Summerhays was right. The heralded newcomer, who won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2019, shot 4-under 68 Monday to win a share of the individual title at the East Lake Cup.
“This is another huge confidence booster,” said Summerhays, who struggled in his first two fall starts after edging junior All-American David Puig in the team’s eight-round qualifier for the season-opening event. He has since settled in, and on Monday delivered another nice bounce-back, bogeying his first two holes before catching fire on the back nine with five birdies in six holes beginning at No. 11.
“You make bogeys out here and you don’t know if you’re going to get them back,” Thurmond said. “To come back from that, it’s just amazing.”
Summerhays, the son of PGA Tour instructor Boyd Summerhays, went over the East Lake layout with his dad on Sunday night. They focused on two things: Driving and avoiding downhill putts on East Lake’s slick greens.
“It’s a really big course off the tee box, and it’s pretty important from tee to fairway,” Summerhays said, “so we went over the course that way, and then obviously with how severe these greens are, it’s obvious where to leave it on the greens.”
Oklahoma senior Chris Gotterup executed him game plan similarly. The Rutgers graduate transfer opened with an eagle and then went bogey-free the rest of the round, which he capped with a 6-foot birdie make to tie Summerhays for the medal.
“I was hitting good putts all day and burning edges, so I felt like I deserved a little reward,” said Gotterup, whose victory marked his second college win and first with the Sooners. He also posted back-to-back top-3 finishes earlier this fall to help reloaded Oklahoma, which lost three All-Americans from last season, assume the top spot in the most recent Golfstat rankings.
“I knew I was capable of doing it,” Gotterup said, “and this fresh start has helped me change a little bit and step up my game because I knew I had to.”
Gotterup is loving life in Norman, Oklahoma, but he’s also enjoying the spotlight. He played on TV before at Rutgers, but nothing like this.
“You get the cameras in your face, but you don’t have Billy Ray [Brown] walking the fairways with you,” he said.
The Sooners will get two more days on TV at East Lake, as they will take on Pepperdine in a rematch of last season’s NCAA final, won by the Waves. Pepperdine earned the top seed Monday by shooting 5 under. Arizona State and Oklahoma State will play in the other semifinal.
During Sunday’s practice round for the East Lake Cup, Oklahoma State sophomore Rina Tatematsu made sure she found the front greenside bunker at the par-5 18th hole, the same bunker that Tiger Woods hit out of during his 2018 Tour Championship victory.
Woods might not have gotten up and down that time, but he still capped the incredible comeback with a trophy.
“Just being able to stand in the same bunker was awesome,” Tatematsu said.
Now, Tatematsu is part of a list of champions at the historic club. She shot 5-under 67 Monday to win the 18-hole stroke-play title at the fall-closing event, which invites the NCAA men’s and women’s semifinalists from a season ago.
Tatematsu carded five birdies to offset a sloppy double at the par-4 10th hole before holing an eagle putt from off the green at the finishing hole. She bested teammate Maddison Hinson-Tolchard and Ole Miss’ Andrea Lignell by four shots while helping the Cowgirls nab the top seed for match play, which begins Tuesday. Oklahoma State will face Arizona, and Ole Miss will meet Duke in a matchup of the last two NCAA team champions.
“It’s such an honor just to be able to come here,” Tatematsu said. “There’s a lot of history in this community and this golf course, and I’m really thankful for the opportunity.”
Tatematsu knows a thing or two about taking full advantage of her chances. Last spring she failed to qualify for Oklahoma State’s first two events and was in line to miss a third before Cowgirls head coach Greg Robertson secured an individual spot for the then freshman at Houston’s Icon Invitational. She then shot 14 under and won the tournament.
“And never looked back,” Robertson said. “She was an All-American after that.”
Tatematsu has continued to be a staple in the lineup this fall, though Robertson made her qualify for the fifth spot for the second event. She hadn’t been quite as focused, but she quickly woke up, winning the qualifier by a few shots and then finishing second in the tournament.
Two starts later she’s got her second career college title.