Cinderella golfer going to the ball
GLEN ELLYN, Ill.
To supplement his income early last decade, Australian professional golfer Anthony Summers spent a couple of years cleaning toilets on weekends at his hometown Sydney Cricket Ground and Sydney Football Stadium.
You might say it was messy post-game work, not to mention the kind to which, say, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have never knelt. And to hear Summers tell it, not all frolicking spectators were models of decorum.
"I cleaned up a lot of vomit," he said, flashing his usual quick smile.
Summers jokes that his business card could have read "Casual Cleaner." But lest you think that dirty duty was repulsive to him, please reconsider.
"It was great," he said, smiling yet again. "It was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. And it was the easiest job in the world."
Besides putting some cash in his pocket, it afforded the journeyman pro free passes to watch soccer and cricket, which he describes as "like hockey, but it lasts about seven hours."
Toiling in this type of a janitorial odd job, of course, is not the usual path to a US Open for a touring professional. But it has been part of the affable Summers’ journey, one that happily will lead him to next week's Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.
As it happened, Summers became one of the best stories to come out of Monday's US Open Sectional Qualifying. He is 42 years old and has never played in a PGA Tour event or a major championship. A regular on the Australian and OneAsia tours, where he finished among the top 25 earners last year, Summers said his previous golf highlight was leading the 2008 Australian Open midway through the third round.
"It would have been nice if they stopped it then," he said, grinning.
The lack of pedigree, though, hardly was a deterrent at the sectional here at the Village Links of Glen Ellyn. Despite playing with lingering jet lag after a flight from Australia, he shot an 11-under 133 (66-67) and was medalist among the 48 entrants.
He edged fellow qualifier Tim Herron, a four-time PGA Tour winner, by a stroke and, no surprise, suggested he’d be "smiling all week."
Summers chose this sectional because he has a Chicago friend he hadn't seen in a while. So he flew in 3-1/2 days in advance and slept on his pal's couch. A suite at the Ritz wasn't in his budget.
Two days before the qualifer, he played a daily-fee course in Winnetka, Ill., and said he "didn’t know who I was or where I was." And on the morning of the qualifier, his body clock still off, he woke up at 1:30 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep.
Then he shot 11 under and almost aced his 35th hole, coming up 5 inches short after lacing a 195-yard 4-iron shot through an incoming wind.
Recently he had missed the cut by a shot in three consecutive tournaments. So it's fair to wonder from where his good form derived. Well, he had been playing well at home, and the day before, he gained confidence while shooting 30 on the back nine at nearby Glen Oak Country Club.
All this was far different from last year for Summers. He missed a flight connection and didn't make it to the 2011 sectional. Instead, he and some friends detoured for a fun trip to Las Vegas. He did not win any money.
"I’m a crap gambler," he said.
Long shots like Summers, of course, set the US Open apart from other majors. The Open not only features the top players in the world rankings but also sometimes gets the wonderful human-interest story like this.
Runner-up at the 2011 New South Wales Open, Summers has battled a degenerative neck disk off and on for the past seven years and has held club pro and other odd jobs besides the Casual Cleaner bit.
He not only has plowed through all that, he's most grateful.
"I’ve had a great life," Summers said. "I’ve been to a lot of places and have seen the world. How can you not like this life?"
Well, it just got better because he's headed to San Francisco. He calls his Open berth the realization of a dream. For sure, he will be smiling. He says he will be nervous.
On top of all that, he figures he has ruined the holiday itinerary of one of his sponsors. The man said he'd caddie if Summers advanced to the Open. As a contingency, the sponsor made plans to play Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay in California that week.
"So potentially," Summer said, smiling again, "he’ll have to give that up."
But, then, whoever said every dream is perfect?