Sacramento’s Own: The Sutherland Brothers

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One still plays on the PGA Tour; the other directs the golf program at Sacramento State. We chatted with Kevin and David Sutherland.

For nearly 30 years, their careers followed similar paths. Kevin and David Sutherland both were standouts at Christian Brothers High School. They were All-Americans at Fresno State. They carved out nice livings on the PGA Tour.

Today, Kevin and David live within a mile of each other in Carmichael, but they’re at different places in their lives. Kevin, 43, has won more than $10 million in 13 seasons on the PGA Tour. His competitive career derailed by injuries, David, 42, is in his first season as Sacramento State’s director of golf.

Kevin wound up enjoying the more successful professional career, but he envies his brother for his farsightedness.

David was never afraid of life after golf, Kevin says by phone from a Tour stop in Florida. I think he looked forward to it, to be honest. David was always aware of what he wanted to do after golf. I think he’s really enjoying himself.

While Kevin is shooting a first-round 67 at the Honda Classic, David apologizes for his messy office on the Sac State campus. A pitching wedge lies on the floor next to a crumpled throw rug.

None of this would come as any surprise to those who knew Kevin and David when they were growing up together. David was always Oscar to Kevin’s Felix.

I really haven’t moved in yet, David says. I took the job just three days before the season began. I’m sorry the place looks like this.

David’s last year on the PGA Tour was 2004. Shoulder, wrist and thumb injuries led him to call it quits for good in 2006.

You hit 10 or 20 million balls, I guess it takes a toll, David says with a resigned smile.

Last year, David taught history at Christian Brothers High School and enjoyed newfound time at home with his wife, Molly, and their two young sons.

I’d love to play one or two events a year, David says. I probably play just as well now as I did five or 10 years ago, but I don’t have the mental focus to be away from home that much.

When you watch the Tour on television, it’s like they appear magically on your screen each Saturday. But they don’t.

The Sacramento State job opened up last summer when Adam Pohll left to become the women’s golf coach at the University of Nevada. Since David didn’t have a permanent teaching position at Christian Brothers, he jumped at the opportunity to direct Sac
State’s program.

The key for us in this program is the image we project in the community, David says. We need to get our teams as involved in the golfing community as much as we possibly can. I think it helps that my brother and I have a great relationship with this community.

They grew up on Sacramento’s public courses, regular guys with terrific golf games. Kevin won the State Fair Men’s Amateur Championship in 1984 at Haggin Oaks. David followed his older brother to Fresno State and won the prestigious Western Amateur in 1989.

It took them a while to reach the PGA Tour, but they were ready once they got there. At the 1997 Greater Milwaukee Open, David tied for second, losing by one stroke when Scott Hoch chipped in for an eagle on the 72nd hole. That same year, Kevin lost in a playoff at the Houston Open.

The high point of either brother’s career came in 2002, when Kevin won the Accenture Match Play Championship, defeating fellow Sacramentan Scott McCarron to earn $1 million. By that point, injuries were plaguing David, although he did win the Nationwide Tour Utah Classic in 2002 in his first start following back surgery.

I played close to 250 events on the PGA Tour, David says. If I have one regret, I would have liked to have won an event. I had times when I could have won and blew it, and there were other times when it was taken from me. But I won a Nationwide Tour event in Salt Lake City and have a picture of me with my son on the green afterward.

I wouldn’t trade that experience. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate.

Unlike David, Kevin is not sure what he wants to do when his playing days are over. With 12 straight finishes among the top 135 on the yearly money list, he might not have to make that decision anytime soon.

I’m proud of the consistency, Kevin says. I’ve been out here 13 years and was able to make a career out of it. If you had told me in the early 1990s that I’d be out here this long, I would have said, ‘Wow, that’s phenomenal.’ But when you’re doing it, you don’t really think about those things.

Kevin is one of the few members of the PGA Tour who makes his home in California. Most pros live in Arizona, Texas or Florida&emdash;places with easy air access and low taxes.

I’ve never thought about leaving Sacramento, Kevin says. Mary (his wife) and I say, ‘Where would we go?’ We could move to Dallas, but we wouldn’t know anyone there. We love Sacramento. It’s where our friends and family are.

David’s feelings about Sacramento are at least as strong as his brother’s, but he confesses to one more regret as he heads out of his office toward the admissions office.

I sometimes wish I could make shots for them, he says of the students he coaches. One of our players will be in the trees, about to chip out toward the fairway, and I’ll be thinking about how I’d try to take the ball over that tree.

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