Sam Sommerhauser was 12 years old when his parents, Dave and Stacey Sommerhauser, dropped him off for a golf lesson one day with Philip Dawson at Morgan Creek Golf Club in Roseville.
Dawson saw something immediately that day in Sommerhauser’s swing and all-around game: the balance and rhythm, the overall talent, the maturity at a young age, the desire to want to improve.
It was all there, shot after shot, for Dawson to take in on the lesson tee.
“Sam had a special talent right off the bat. You could just see it. He had that look that he was going to be a great player,” said Dawson, who spent seven years as a tour professional, playing the Canadian Tour and different mini tours.
“He kind of had a really cool look to his game right off the bat. When Sam and I got started, he was already a pretty good player. I think I might have said something to Dave early on, like, ‘This isn’t going to be a hard job. All I’ve got to do is point him in the right direction.’ ”
Sam Sommerhauser, 18, is moving in a very successful direction in golf.
He committed to play on the men’s golf team at the University of Arizona during his junior year at Whitney High School in Rocklin. He is off to a very solid start as a freshman for the Wildcats – playing in the lineup and earning straight A’s during the fall semester. He has also placed in some big amateur events, when the Arizona team was not able to play last fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He played in the Copper Cup, the opening event of the 2021 spring schedule. In a points-based, match play format that was played over two days, Jan. 17-18, at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa, Arizona lost to Arizona State.
He also played in the Arizona Intercollegiate, as the Wildcats won their annual home tournament Jan. 25-27 at Sewailo Golf Club in Tucson, Ariz. There were 17 teams in the field.
“Sam is a highly decorated recruit, someone we’ve been following ever since he was very young,” Arizona head coach Jim Anderson said. “He’s a name that surfaces often in the junior golf results. It’s important as coaches and recruiters that we kind of have a pulse on who the next great players are from different areas. We’ve been having success with a lot of players from the Sacramento footprint.”
Indeed. The Arizona roster features four other players from the Sacramento area:
- David Laskin, a redshirt senior from Elk Grove and Jesuit High School in Carmichael.
- Drake Mendenhall, a senior from Granite Bay and Granite Bay High School.
- Brad Reeves, a redshirt senior from Woodbridge, Calif., and Lodi High School.
- Chase Sienkiewicz, a sophomore from Sacramento and Jesuit High School in Carmichael.
Sommerhauser has been on Arizona’s radar for some time.
“We knew about Sammy as a great young junior golfer, when he was in the eighth, ninth, 10th grade,” said Anderson. “We started watching and evaluating him and then at the appropriate time, communicating with and talking to him. We were very excited that we were on his shortlist. Fortunately for us, he decided, ‘Yes, I want to be a Wildcat.’
“It’s obviously early. He’s learning and adapting quickly. We’re certainly high on what he’s going to be able to do to help our program compete at the highest level.”
There is so much that Dawson has done over the years to help Sommerhauser with his game. He is a member of the PGA of America and a Class A professional who is Sommerhauser’s swing coach.
Dawson operates the Performance Golf Academy at Catta Verdera Country Club in Lincoln. It’s Sommerhauser’s home course.
“I have a great coach in Phil Dawson. He’s been helping me so much since I started and I definitely couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without him, for sure,” said Sommerhauser.
Playing for the Arizona Wildcats
Sam Sommerhauser said it was his dream as a junior golfer to one day play in college, to play on a college team and have the experience of competing in top-quality events each year.
“It’s more than I could have imagined,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun so far. We are off to a good start. Hopefully we can continue out the year on a strong note.”
Sommerhauser is playing for Arizona on an athletic scholarship and plans to major in business. He takes pride in managing his time – applying himself to his classes and the golf program.
“It’s pretty cool to live on your own and to have more independence,” said Sommerhauser, who is from Rocklin. “You have to definitely manage your time wisely.
“I feel like I’m getting better just because of the great players we have on our team and the great coaches. I’ve loved it so far.
“I think one of the reasons we are so good as a team is because we all get along. We all love practicing with each other. We all love hanging out with each other. We all love the coaches. We’re all just best friends on the team that love to play golf. And I think that’s one of the main reasons we’re going to do so well this year.”
It’s an extensive spring tournament schedule for Arizona, with the Wildcats going to:
- The Prestige, Feb. 15-17, at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif.
- Cabo Collegiate, March 1-3, at San Antonio, Texas.
- N.I.T., March 20-21, at Omni Tucson National, Tucson, Ariz.
- Augusta Haskins Award Invitational, April 3-4, Augusta, Ga. * Western Intercollegiate, April 12-14, at Pasatiempo Golf Club, Santa Cruz.
- Thunderbird Collegiate, April 16-17, at Papago Golf Course, Phoenix, Ariz.
- Pac-12 Championships, April 26-28, at Mayacama Golf Club, Santa Rosa.
“Early in his college career, to go in there and to have some success, that doesn’t surprise me,” said Dawson. “In three or four years, if we’re not talking about Sam being one of the top college players in the country, I’d be really surprised. He’s that good.
“Sam’s not a big kid, so he plays more of a control game. He’s the guy who hits it real straight and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He kind of has a bit of a stoic mentality. He’s certainly not short. He’s gotten pretty long. He probably hits it 310 yards now.” He showed that kind of talent, tying for third place at the Grapevine Amateur in January, shooting rounds of 67, 73 and 69 for a 7-under-par 209 total at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa, Ariz.
Sommerhauser was tied for the first-round lead with two other players.
The Grapevine is the opening event of the 2021-2022 Troon Saguaro Amateur Series.
Last November, Sommerhauser tied for second at the Gobbler Amateur, a Troon Saguaro Amateur Series event, at Sewailo Golf Club in Tucson, Ariz. He had rounds of 72, 67 and 70 for a 4-under 209 total.
“He’s always looking to get better. Like his teammates, he’s seeking out opportunities to compete even in that void of college tournaments,” said Anderson.
“He’s going to have plenty of opportunities to compete this spring. He’s been playing great. So far, I’ve been very impressed. His ball striking is exceptional. I think that thing that Sam does probably as well as anyone I’ve ever seen at his age playing golf, is that he knows how to pick the right shot, and one that he can execute. That’s a sign of maturity as a player and I think because he has that maturity and capability, it’s also what allows him to excel at the level that he’s at. And I think it will set him up for success, even in future levels.
“He really doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses in his game. He’s very efficient in every single area of the game.”
Another great quality that Sommerhauser has, according to Anderson, is his attitude, personality and temperament in the game.
“Sam has been impressive from the very beginning. Amidst all the challenges of adjusting to college, there’s nothing normal about the experience right now, because of COVID,” Anderson explained. “You
throw in there the fact that we didn’t get to compete in the fall, throw in the fact that we can’t have workouts the same way or meals the same way, or even team meetings the same way.
“Sam has done a great job of adjusting and his personality is so even keeled. He’s very competitive, but he harnesses the emotion very well. He doesn’t show when he’s doing great and he doesn’t show it when he’s struggling. I think that’s a sign of a great player.
“I think Sam’s done a great job of adjusting and I think he’s definitely ready to step in and be a key contributor on our team. Not just being a member of our team, but shooting great scores with our team.”
The Arizona team practices and plays at a number of courses in the Tucson area.
“I’ve had to get used to the weather, as it’s much different from Northern California,” said Sommerhauser. “I love the courses here. They’re a lot of fun and there is definitely a big variety in Tucson. You can play a different course every single day. That’s what I love about it.”
Playing junior golf and high school golf
Sommerhauser played competitive junior tournament golf growing up. He played in First Tee – Greater Sacramento, Junior Golf Association of Northern California, Junior Tour of Northern California, and American Junior Golf Association events. He graduated in 2020 from Whitney High School in Rocklin and plays out of Catta Verdera Country Club in Lincoln.
He had a stellar prep career, serving as Whitney’s captain all four years, capturing MVP honors of the Sierra Foothill League in 2019, and leading Whitney into the postseason in 2019. In addition, he received the school’s Scholar Athlete Award.
Sommerhauser fired an even-par 72 to finish eighth overall at the Northern California Championships at El Macero Country Club in Yolo County in 2019. Whitney was sixth in the team scoring. By finishing as the seventh-place individual, Sommerhauser advanced to the CIF State Championships.
He tied for eighth place, shooting a 2-under-par 69, at Poppy Hills Golf Course at Pebble Beach during the state finals.
Sommerhauser won multiple times on the Junior Tour of Northern California, which was founded in 2011 by the Northern California Golf Association and the Northern California Section of the PGA.
He won the boys title of the 90th Annual Northern California Golf Association Junior Championship in 2019 at Green Hills Country Club in Millbrae. He won in wire-to-wire fashion, with rounds of 68, 73 and 73 for a 1-over 214 total and a four-shot victory.
Past champions of the event include Ken Venturi, Bobby Clampett, Johnny Miller and Miller’s youngest son, Todd Miller.
Sommerhauser shot 10-under 134, rounds of 69 and 65, to win the boys title of the Junior Tour of Northern California Fall Series IX Championship at Poppy Ridge Golf Course in Livermore in 2019. He had seven birdies during the first round, followed by seven more birdies during the final round.
He tied for second place at the 56th Sacramento County Men’s Amateur Scratch Championship last year at Ancil Hoffman Golf Course in Carmichael. He had rounds of 71 and 71 for a 2-under 142 in the Sacramento Golf Council event.
“He’s a great player and a super hard worker,” said Dawson. “He’s kind of mature beyond his years and a really level headed kid. He’s humble. He has an even temperament.
“He’s talented and has a great work ethic. He has a great head on his shoulders. He has desire – he wants to see how good he can get.
“I remember when he won a JTNC junior tournament by like seven shots. I texted him on the way home. I was like, ‘Well, it had to be fun.’ And I think his response was something like, ‘Yeah, I played pretty good.’ That’s about all you ever get from him. He’s a great kid.”
Sommerhauser played very well at the 109th California Amateur Championship last year at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla. After tying for 19th place in stroke play qualifying, with rounds of 69 on the North
Course and 72 on the South Course for a 3-under 141 total, he moved into match play as one of the low 32 players.
He won in the Round of 32 over Cullen Brasfield of La Quinta, 5 and 4, and he won in the Round of 16 over Joshua McCarthy of Danville, 1 up. He lost in the quarterfinals to Chase Sienkiewicz of Carmichael, 3 and 1.
During his senior year at Whitney High, Sommerhauser captured the Boys’ Pro-Junior team title at the PGA Tour Champions’ PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee on Sept. 29, 2019. He played with Kirk Triplett, the winner of the PGA Tour Champions’ event, as they shot 23-under 192 for the 54-hole event, with rounds of 63, 66, 63.
“It was a great experience,” Sommerhauser, who has been a member of First Tee – Greater Sacramento, said in a story at jtnc.org. “I’m just thankful I got to play and played well.”
The event, featuring 78 First Tee participants from throughout the country, is held at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course.
Sommerhauser ended the week by making a birdie on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach.
“He’s a fabulous player with a fabulous swing,” Triplett said at jtnc.org.
Triplett made a birdie putt from 10 feet on the first hole of a playoff to beat Billy Andrade on No. 18 at Pebble Beach.
The First Tee participants are paired with PGA Tour Champions players and amateurs during the event.
Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.