Young American a man on a mission

BY MARTIN DAVIDSON
Last updated 09:46 12/03/2009

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Golfers sometimes get a bum rap from the uninitiated who consider them self centred egotists forever whingeing about their lot.

The weather, an unkind bounce here or there, a pleb moving in the crowd at the wrong time. . .anything and everything, it seems, can set them off.

But you will not hear a word of complaint from the mouth of Daniel Summerhays, an American of strong faith who has a ready made prescription for perspective, whenever he may rue some small slice of misfortune.

Summerhays spent two years working as a Mormon missionary in Santiago, Chile, before he entered the touring pro ranks in 2007, an experience which left an indelible impression on the 25-year-old.

"Golf is filled with mishits, missed putts and errant tee shots. My church work taught me to keep plugging away," Summerhays said ahead of the New Zealand Open which starts today at The Hills on the outskirts of Arrowtown.

"It gave me a greater appreciation of what I have, and you won't hear me complaining about anything as far as food, weather or clothing and things like that go.

"I have seen the worst. I have seen people who have nothing but are as happy as people who have everything."

Summerhays said 95 per cent of his missionary work involved him having to deal with rejection – a spurned hand in the street, or doors being slammed in his face.

"But the five per cent of the people I could help gave me hope for the future."

His strong faith meant he had to put his golf career on hold for two years, but he has certainly made up for lost time since his mission ended in 2005.

Two years ago he became the first amateur to secure a Nationwide Tour title when he won the Children's Hospital Invitational, a result which hastened his decision to seek a living from the game.

He joined the queue of Nationwide players in Australia and New Zealand over the past three weeks for their three tournament swing Down Under.

It's been a mixed bag for Summerhays, who tied for fourth at the Moonah Classic outside of Melbourne before missing the cut at the New Zealand PGA Championship in Christchurch last week.

Despite the southerly blast which has left this tourist resort region shivering in single figure temperatures, the American bonded warmly with The Hills course before beginning the first round today.

The sharp elevation changes, rustic vistas and natural beauty of the venue reminded him of some courses he played in his youth, 30 minutes from his home town outside of Park City in Utah.

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"There are some courses there up in the hills that have a lot of elevation changes but there's nothing like this at home on the Nationwide Tour."

The Hills is very busy on the eye and full of optical deceptions.

"It's very challenging visually," Summerhays said.

"One half of the fairways is cut down grain and the other half is cut into the grain. During my practice round it took a fair while to work out that the darker green strip was not rough.

"And there are some fairway bunkers who you think are about 230 yards away which are actually more like 280."

The course is wildly different to that which confronted the players last week at Clearwater Resort in Christchurch.

"Clearwater is as flat a walk as you could ever get. Around here, we're going to be changing altitude and will have popping in our ears walking up and down these hills."

Despite the sharp contrast, Summerhays said the essence of the game remained the same.

"You have to hit the fairways, get up and down and make a whole lot of putts."

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