As a player on the Fresno State men’s golf team, Matthew Sutherland takes time each year to write down his goals, both academically and athletically. He takes great pride in both areas, working very hard in his classes and on the golf course.
One goal that Sutherland always strives for is to be an academic All-American.
Goal accomplished. In July, he was named a Srixon/Cleveland Golf All-America Scholar, the Golf Coaches Association of America announced. “I just try to do all my assignments and get them in,” said Sutherland, a communications major, who is from Sacramento. “For me, one thing I found is that if I take more time outside the course to focus on my studies, it allows me to appreciate my time on the golf course. I have felt that the better I’m doing in school, the better I’m playing sometimes because I feel better about myself. I feel like I’m being productive.” The Srixon/Cleveland Golf All-America Scholar honor was one of Sutherland’s highlights to a sophomore season.
Another was when he fired a final round 67 and finished in second place for Fresno State at the Bandon Dunes Invitational in March at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s Sheep Ranch. It was a competition course record at Sheep Ranch, according to Fresno State Athletics in a report at gobulldogs.com. That week, Sutherland was up late at night, finishing a term paper from the road trip to Bandon, Ore. “I submitted it and I played really well that week,” he recalled. “When you’re up until 12 (midnight) or 1 (a.m.) at night, working on your assignments, and then you have to play the next morning, sometimes that actually helps you. I think once you get it done, you’re so relieved to be done with the schoolwork. You can play golf and that’s like your time off. You’re just happy to be playing.”
Also, in July, the Mountain West announced Sutherland was named to the Spring 2022 Academic all-conference team. Sutherland played very well throughout the fall season and spring season for Fresno State. He tied for 20th at the Mountain West Men’s Golf Championship in April. It was played at the Gold Mountain Olympic Course in Bremerton, Wash. He tied for fifth last October at the 2021 Visit Stockton Invitational. He shot a final-round 66 at Stockton Golf & Country Club and completed the event at 9-under 204.
“I think my golf game has really taken a jump to the next level,” he said. “In terms of competitive golf this year, I think I’ve been able to start hitting the ball a little bit more consistently with the iron play. I kind of found a bit of a rhythm with my irons. And so, I’m just playing really consistent golf.”
That consistency has been key.
Sutherland qualified and played in the U.S. Amateur for the second straight year. The U.S. Golf Association event was played Aug. 15-21 at The Ridgewood Country Club and Arcola Country Club, in Paramus, N.J. Sutherland and Mark Stephens of UC Davis shared medalist honors at 12-under-par 132 at a U.S. Amateur qualifier on July 25 at Butte Creek Country Club in Chico. They were the only players to advance from the one-day, 36-hole qualifier at Butte Creek, a par-72, 7,000-yard layout. Sutherland had rounds of 65 and 67. Stephens, who is from Redding, had rounds of 66 and 66. “We were playing together and we both qualified. We were both just rolling, making a lot of birdies and a lot of good shots. It was fun. It really was a fun day,” said Sutherland. There were 43 players at the qualifier.
The USGA accepted 7,749 entries for the U.S. Amateur, according to www.usga.org. To be eligible, a player cannot have a Handicap Index exceeding 2.4, according to www.usga.org. The USGA said that qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, over 36 holes, took place between June 27 and July 27 at 94 sites. The main thing that Sutherland says he focuses on, due to being such a long day on account of playing 36 holes, is just trying to stay present for every shot you hit. “It doesn’t matter if you’re even-par or 12-under par,” he said. “You should try to hit every golf shot the same. And I think that’s kind of what helped me. I have always loved playing those valley golf courses where you have the trees, so I always feel at ease when I’m playing those courses. That’s kind of where I grew up. I just kind of go out, and I try to enjoy the day. Everyone wants to qualify, but if you put too much pressure on yourself to qualify, it can be really hard. I’m not really thinking too much about what the number is going to be. I’m just trying to make birdie on the first hole. I’m trying to hit the first fairway and the first green and just kind of go into my rhythm. It kind of helps take some of the pressure off, I think.”
Advancing to U.S. Amateur
Playing in the U.S. Amateur and joining a field of 312 players highlight a hectic summer of tournament golf for Sutherland, a 2019 Rio Americano High School-Sacramento graduate. He was a two-time league MVP and was all-league in his four years there. He was also a three-time All-City selection and was named All-City MVP.
Sutherland, unfortunately, missed the cut by just one shot after rounds of 74 and 73 for a 147 total, 6-over-par. Sixty-four players advanced to match play following the stroke play qualifying. “I didn’t really make any mistakes and all the bogeys I made were just good bogeys,” he said. “I’ve been playing a lot of those good those rounds. I’ve played well in a few events, but I definitely feel the next level for me is to start making the cut at the U.S. Am and playing good at some of these big events. I think it’s just going to happen.”
He said playing in the U.S. Amateur was a great experience. “I think leaving Ridgewood, even though I missed the cut by one, I was very happy because all of the things that I’ve been working on for the last year, I saw an improvement. And so now I think going into this year, I think it’s about continuing to improve on those things that I noticed,” he said. It’s always great to go play in a USGA event. It always makes your summer. If you qualify for the US Am, you had a great summer. That’s kind of how it goes. It’s just so much fun. You’re playing great golf courses. Ridgewood is one of my favorite courses I’ve ever played. Obviously, it’s a great test of golf. It was cool to test my game on a really challenging golf course and see how I stood up. And I felt like I did pretty well. I just needed a few more putts to go in and I would have been there. It’s always fun to do the US Am.” Last year, Sutherland qualified and played in the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club. He missed the cut.
Sutherland finished second at the 58th annual Sacramento County Men’s Amateur Championship, a Sacramento Golf Council event and Northern California Golf Association points tournament, July 23-24 at Ancil Hoffman Golf Course in Carmichael. He shot 70-70 – 140. He also played in the 111th California Amateur Championship, June 27-July 2, at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach. He will play in the 98th California State Fair Men’s Amateur Championship, a Sacramento Golf Council event, on Sept. 3-5 at the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento.
Sutherland, 21, is starting his junior year on the golf team at Fresno State. The Bulldogs practice and play at Sunnyside Country Club in Fresno, San Joaquin Country Club in Fresno, Fort Washington Golf & Country Club in Fresno, Belmont Country Club in Fresno, and Dragonfly Golf Club in Madera. “I’m very positive going into this year,” he said. “Lots of high hopes.”
He tied for third at the Memorial Amateur Championship, May 28-30, at Ancil Hoffman.
Matthew Sutherland has gotten a lot of help and support through the years in golf from his dad, David Sutherland, the head coach of the Sacramento State women’s team and a former PGA Tour player. “I’m so incredibly grateful to have my dad with me through the trials of playing competitive golf, because it can get tough sometimes when you’re in a slump or not playing well,” Matthew said. “There have been many times where I’m down at Fresno and I’ll call my dad – like, hey, you know, I’m struggling. I’m not playing well, or I’m just not confident or whatever. And the nice thing is, my dad, no matter what the situation, he’s been there. He’s dealt with it. He’s been in Q school, he’s missed Q school, he’s made Q school. He’s missed cuts. He’s made cuts. He’s won.”
David Sutherland is a four-time recipient of the Big Sky Conference Jeff Smith Women’s Golf Coach of the Year award. After graduating in 1984 from Christian Brothers High School-Sacramento, David Sutherland played golf in college, twice earning All-America honors (1987 and 1989) at Fresno State. He was also named an Academic All-American and was honored as a senior Fresno State’s Pacific Coast Athletic Association Student-Athlete of the Year. David Sutherland caddied for Matthew at last year’s U.S. Amateur at Oakmont.
“He’s caddied for me a lot,” said Matthew. “It’s just been great to have that kind of presence on the bag. He’s been through it all. He knows the struggles, and he knows the highlights. He understands how to coach and how to help me become a better golfer. And a lot of that is letting me kind of figure it out on my own. I would say there’s very few fundamental golf swing stuff that we work on. If we’re working on something, we’re just talking about how to handle making a double, and then going to the next hole, or how to handle it if you’re not hitting it well. He talks a lot about having good energy, confidence, and positivity. And I think that is really the main thing. He wasn’t super fundamental with me. It allowed me to kind of figure out my way to play and I’m very grateful for that.”
David Sutherland is a Fresno State graduate who turned professional in 1989 and joined the PGA Tour in 1997. He played in 215 PGA Tour events and 83 Nationwide Tour events in a 17-year playing career. He had eight Top-10 finishes and 32 Top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour. Sutherland was Director of Golf at Sacramento State for ten years, overseeing both the men’s and women’s teams. David’s brother, Kevin Sutherland, plays on the PGA Tour Champions. Kevin Sutherland started on the PGA Tour in 1996 and then joined the PGA Tour Champions in 2014.
Connections to Sacramento
Matthew Sutherland played most of his junior golf at Ancil Hoffman Golf Course in Carmichael.
He also spent much time at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, which Morton Golf Management oversees. “The entire Morton family has been incredibly gracious to me and my pathway with junior golf and college golf as well. I can’t thank them enough,” he said. “Mike Woods (PGA member, Vice President and General Manager of Haggin Oaks, Vice President-Morton Golf Foundation) has helped out a lot. The whole facility and everybody at Haggin Oaks has really helped.”
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.