The Story Behind The Sac State Women’s Golf Head Coach, David Sutherland, And His Deep Ties To Haggin Oaks Golf Complex

David Sutherland and the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, a 36-hole facility in Sacramento that features the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course and the Arcade Creek Course, go back a long time together.

All the way back to when Sutherland was a teenager.

It’s where Sutherland started out in the game, learning about the swing and all of the different shots from his coach, Don Baucom.

“He’s had a huge impact on my life,” said Sutherland. “He never charged me to take a lesson from him. He always taught me for free. He gave up his time and a lot of it to teach me. As I look back on that, it’s quite amazing that he did all that.

“What I thought made him a great teacher was that he had great enthusiasm. He was always into it and he also had you feeling better about your game at the end of a lesson. You never want to leave a lesson going, ‘Oh crap, I don’t know what I’m doing now.’ You were excited to take a lesson and you were always looking forward to seeing him.”

It’s also where Sutherland, as the head coach for women’s golf at Sacramento State, takes his team out for practice at least once a week, with the Hornets using the two courses, driving range, Haggin Oaks Academy Holes for short game purposes, practice greens, and the indoor hitting area.

Haggin Oaks is one of the Sacramento-area properties that Morton Golf manages. The others are William Land Golf Course in Sacramento, Bing Maloney Golf Complex in Sacramento, and Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course in Sacramento. “One thing that I really love about the Mortons, and the folks there, is that they really embrace the idea and are so involved in youth golf,” said Sutherland. “They are so amazing to our program – just above and beyond.

“Haggin Oaks is a very functional place. You have a really large driving range with technology and where you can use the studios for TrackMan (Golf). We use all of those different facilities. They’re so friendly. They just kind of allow the gals in a real sort of comfortable, friendly and engaging way to use the facility. The gals have gotten to know all the folks out there really well, and they feel completely at home out there. Our gals just love it.

“Not only do they use the facilities, but they’re very thankful and they use them in a way that helps them hopefully try to achieve their goals. All of the folks out there are really just so comfortable with us, sort of working around them, because they’re busy, but we can come out and keep ourselves busy.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sacramento State has not played since March. The Hornets finished in second place in March at The Gunrock Invitational, played at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento.

“It’s been a really challenging year for everybody, including us, trying to figure out how to coach a team during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Sutherland.

“This has been just been by far the most challenging semester and a half, going back to last March, that I’ve ever been a part of, having three seniors last year missing their season, the end of season, and not being able to go to graduation.

“Hopefully we can get started playing again here soon.”

Connection to Haggin Oaks

The connection and history that Sutherland has had with Haggin Oaks over all the years is very strong.

He recalls walking from his home to Haggin Oaks after school, so that he could practice and play and work on his game.

“I grew up out there. It was a really nice environment. The folks at Haggin were all just wonderful. There’s a lot that hasn’t even changed at all. It’s almost exactly the same as it was when I was a kid growing up,” he said.

From playing college and PGA Tour golf to now coaching

Sutherland played golf in high school at Christian Brothers-Sacramento. After graduating in 1984, he went to Fresno State and was twice named as an All-American, in 1987 and 1989. A top student, he was named as an Academic All-American and was also selected as Fresno State’s Pacific Coast Athletic Association Student-Athlete of the Year during his senior year.

The Fresno State graduate took his game to another level, turning professional in 1989 and then joining the PGA Tour in 1997.

He played in 83 Nationwide Tour events and 215 PGA Tour events over 17 years. He had eight Top-10 finishes and 32 Top-25 finishes during his career on the PGA Tour. He tied for second place at the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1997. Sutherland tied for third place in two tournaments. He has played in both The Open Championship and the Tour Championship.

“Coaching is very different than playing,” he said. “There’s a lot that I miss about playing, for sure. I miss the simplicity of your life, where all you were really focusing on was yourself and playing golf, and your world kind of revolved around that – your sleep schedule, your practice schedule, the things you did with friends, and family.

“And yet, there was also a lot of travel, being away from family, certainly a decent amount of pressure and expectations that maybe I don’t miss a ton.

“Coaching can be very challenging, because you do have to wear a lot of different hats. I do feel like – at least, I hope – that you’re making a real difference in somebody’s life. And that’s something that you just don’t really get when you’re playing professional golf.”

Sutherland turned to coaching after battling injuries as a player for two years.

“Because of my injuries, I had a chance to prepare for life after golf,” he said in a story on the Sacramento State Athletic Department website, www.hornetsports.com. “I knew that I could only continue to play for a few years and then wanted to begin working with young people. When the opportunity came to coach at Sacramento State, I knew it was a great fit.”

For 10 years, Sutherland was Director of Golf for Sacramento State, overseeing the men’s and women’s teams. At one time, he was the head coach for both teams.

“I just felt like I was ready to focus on just one team,” he said.

“I enjoy my job. I enjoy the fact that it allows me to help people and give back to a golfing community.”

Sutherland directed the men’s team to two America Sky Conference titles.

Leading the Sac State women’s team

Sutherland took over as the head coach for women’s golf at Sacramento State before the 2007-08 season. He has “helped turn the Hornets into one of top programs on the West Coast,” according to www.hornetsports.com. He has been honored as the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year, in 2017, 2018 and 2019. He has led the Hornets to appearances at two NCAA regionals.

“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,” Sac State reported at www.hornetsports.com.

Once again, Sacramento State has a very talented team.

“The talent on our team is significant, with a great work ethic. I have some absolutely awesome golfers in my program now. We have quite a few golfers now who want to be professional golfers,” said Sutherland. “The success of the team has been really awesome. Their work ethic is just incredible, just how dedicated they are to the game and how hard they are willing to work.

“When you’re coaching, you really are dealing with people on a one-on-one basis. You hope that you’ve had – at least for the vast majority – a real positive impact in their life. And that kind of makes you feel good when you get older … feeling like you’re maybe making the place a little better.

“I do like them having those experiences and taking them on adventures and having them be able to do things that they’ve never done before. To be able to take them to Carmel or Hawaii or something like that, where they are able to compete.” Sofie Babic, Nishtha Madan, Corinne Viden and Tess Blair were named to the All-American Scholars team in June by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association.

Blair had an outstanding freshman season, earning several honors:

* Sacramento State Female Newcomer of the Year.

* Big Sky Conference Player of the Year.

* Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year.

Kevin Sutherland a star on PGA Tour Champions

David Sutherland’s brother, Kevin Sutherland, played golf at Fresno State and on Nov. 9 won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, a PGA Tour Champions event, at Phoenix Country Club in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sutherland beat Paul Broadhurst on the ninth hole of a playoff, as he made a 4-foot birdie putt.

Play was suspended due to darkness after the sixth playoff hole on Sunday and resumed early on Monday.

It was the fourth victory of Sutherland’s career on the PGA Tour Champions. It’s also his second win at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Kevin Sutherland earned $375,000 after rounds of 65, 64 and 69 for a 15-under 198 total.

Sutherland finished No. 3 in the final Charles Schwab Cup standings, ending the 2020 season with $1,226,807.

He joined the PGA Tour Champions in 2014.

Don Baucom has also worked with Kevin Sutherland over the years.

“I don’t know that I would have had a career professionally had I not known Don,” said David Sutherland. “He even taught Kevin, as well, from the time he was a teenager. That sort of enthusiasm from Don I think carried over into my career, and then into my career as a coach.”

By Marty James, 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.

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