David Sutherland has the Sacramento State women’s golf team on top in the Big Sky Conference.
As head coach, he guided the Hornets to the title at the Big Sky Championship in April, the team’s third conference crown in four years. From there, they advanced to the NCAA Stanford Regional, finishing in 13th place in a very talented field of teams in May.
The Hornets had Top-10 finishes in five of their 2021 spring season tournaments:
- Tied for fifth place at The Gold Rush at Old Ranch Country Club in Seal Beach, Calif., in February.
- Second place at The Gunrock Invitational at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento in March.
- Sixth place at the Juli Inkster Meadow Club Invitational in Fairfax (Marin County) in March.
- Sixth place at the Red Rocks Invitational at Oakcreek Country Club at Sedona, Arizona in March.
- Fourth place at the Fresno State Classic in April at Copper River Country Club.
“I’m super proud of my team because we do it the right way. We have great grades. We have a positive environment,” said Sutherland. “I tell my team all the time – I care about them more as people than just as golfers. We graduate them. We keep them on scholarship. We’re not a program that cuts kids or kicks them off the team because they make a mistake or two. We don’t cheat with the NCAA rules.”
Sutherland, a former PGA Tour player, is now looking for more, as he is setting his sights on advancing the Hornets even deeper into the postseason and taking the program to an even higher level.
He would like to see Sacramento State get to the NCAA Championships one day.
“I don’t think that we should limit the possibilities that we are capable of achieving,” he said. “I do think that we are able to sustain the positive environment of our program and sustain the success we’ve had.
“I certainly think that it’s within the realistic possibilities for us to go to regionals and to get through it and go to nationals. I do think that is a realistic outcome that we may be able to do in the next three or four years. We’ll have to play our best.
“We know how good programs like Stanford are, and how good those ladies are, and that we will have to play really well as a team to compete and beat those programs. But I don’t think that it’s something that we should feel that is beyond our capabilities.
“I hate the idea of being satisfied with a moderate level of success, because of the school you’re at. I mean, these gals are great players. They’re talented. I do think we can achieve even more than this.
“I think that making nationals is something that we, at the very least, should be comfortable with the idea that we can do it.”
There is so much that Sacramento State has achieved with Sutherland leading the program.
“This year was unlike any other and I’m so proud of the way the team was able to maintain focus with all the distractions going on around them,” Sutherland said in a Sacramento State Athletics report, at www.hornetsports.com. “An award like this needs to be shared with (assistant coach) Cindy Mah-Lyford who does amazing work each day to help the team compete at a high level.”
- Sutherland was named as the Big Sky Jeff Smith Women’s Golf Coach of the Year in April. It’s the fourth consecutive time – a conference record – that he has received the award (2017-2019, 2021).
- The 883 team score that Sacramento State shot during the NCAA Stanford Regional, which was played in May at Stanford Golf Course, is the Hornets’ lowest three-round total in school NCAA Div. I postseason history, according to www.hornetsports.com. Their previous low was an 892 team score, established in 2019. The 288 team score that the Hornets shot in the third and final round at Stanford is tied for the lowest in program NCAA postseason history, according to www.hornetsports.com.
- The Hornets’ 13th-place team finish ties the school record for their highest finish at an NCAA Regional, according to www.hornetsports.com.
- Taking over as head coach prior to the 2007-08 season, Sutherland has led Sacramento State to two appearances at the NCAA Regionals.
- According to Sacramento State Athletics, at www.hornetsports.com: “During his tenure, has helped turn the Hornets into one of the top programs on the West Coast. His teams have routinely been among the best in the Big Sky Conference with six second-place finishes at the conference tournament before the Hornets defeated Idaho in a playoff to win the crown in 2017.”
2021 Spring Season
Sacramento State was only able to play the spring 2021 season. The Big Sky announced last August the postponement of all competition of fall sports to the spring “due to ongoing concerns related to the COVID-19 global pandemic.”
Four of Sacramento’s players were recognized on the All-Big Sky team. Jennifer Koga (Honolulu, Hawaii) was named as the Big Sky Player of the Year and the Freshman of the Year. She was also named first-team all-conference.
Tess Blair (South Jordan, Utah), the individual champion at the Big Sky Championship, was named first-team all-conference. Blair was named as the Big Sky Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year during the 2019-20 season. Corinne Viden (Gothenburg, Sweden) was named second-team all-conference. Sydney Smith (Las Vegas, Nev.) was named honorable mention all-conference. Also on the team are Guadalupe Dabos (Tandil, Argentina) and Miki Manta (Honolulu, Hawaii).
“We would never have had the success that we had this year without Jennifer and Tess,” said Sutherland. “From my standpoint, as a coach, it makes me feel really good about the direction that our program is going, that we have these young, talented golfers that chose to go to Sacramento State and be part of this program.
“Tess and Jennifer are as good, if not better, than anybody they compete against, and nobody can convince me otherwise. They’re really good players, really good golfers, and anybody that beats them has played well to do that.”
From High School to College to Pro Golf
Sutherland is a 1984 graduate of Christian Brothers High School-Sacramento and played golf for the Falcons.
He played college golf, earning All-America honors, in 1987 and 1989, at Fresno State. He was also recognized as a top student, as he was selected as an Academic All-American and also as Fresno State’s Pacific Coast Athletic Association Student-Athlete of the Year as a senior.
Sutherland, a Fresno State graduate, turned professional in 1989 and joined the PGA Tour in 1997.
During his 17-year career, he played in 215 PGA Tour events and 83 Nationwide Tour events.
Among his eight Top-10 finishes was a tie for second place in 1997 at the Greater Milwaukee Open. He also had a pair of third-place finishes.
Overall, he had 32 Top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour.
Sutherland got into coaching after battling injuries for two years as a Tour player. He was Director of Golf at Sacramento State for 10 years, overseeing both men’s and women’s teams.
“I’ve enjoyed getting into coaching and being a part of young kids’ lives,” he said. “It’s been a labor of love for me. I’m really thankful that my life has brought me into contact with these amazing young women.
“I’m so proud of everything we’ve done. I believe in the young ladies we have here, the environment we have. The people that we’re recruiting and that are coming into our program … they are capable of coming in and competing at a really high level.”
Kevin Sutherland, David’s brother, plays on the PGA Tour Champions.
Kevin Sutherland, with 12 Top-10 finishes and $1,665,507 in earnings in 19 appearances, is No. 3 in the Schwab Cup standings during the 2020-21 season.
Kevin Sutherland joined the PGA Tour in 1996 and joined the PGA Tour Champions in 2014.
He won the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, a PGA Tour event, in 2002.
He has five wins on the PGA Tour Champions: Charles Schwab Cup Championship in 2017, Rapiscan Systems Classic and Principal Charity Classic in 2019, and Charles Schwab Cup Championship and Cologuard Classic in 2020.
* 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.