How Sacramento’s Sutherland celebrated breakthrough win on PGA’s senior tour

Kevin Sutherland hits his tee shot on the 11th hole during the final round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Sunday at Phoenix Country Club in Phoenix.
Kevin Sutherland hits his tee shot on the 11th hole during the final round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Sunday at Phoenix Country Club in Phoenix. The Arizona Republic

The day after winning the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, the PGA Tour Champions seasonlong points title and $1.4 million, Kevin Sutherland rewarded himself with … a three-hour drive to Fresno and a three-hour drive home.

He had committed to participate in a Monday fundraiser for the Fresno State men’s golf team and, if you know Sutherland, you know he was going to honor his commitment. Left at 6 a.m., got home at 10 p.m.

“People said, ‘I can’t believe you came,’ ” Sutherland said. “I told them, ‘I said I was going to come.’ 

The 53-year-old lifelong Sacramentan is as consistent off the course as on, and that’s saying something.

Sutherland’s victory was his first on the PGA Tour Champions, comprised of golfers 50 and older. It came in his 78th start and 15 years after he won the World Golf Championship Match Play in 2002 for his lone PGA Tour title. In 604 career tournaments between the PGA, and Champions tours, he has 15 runner-up finishes, 99 top 10s and 227 top 25s.

That adds up to a lot of good golf and money in the bank, but there’s nothing like winning.

“There’s a certain satisfaction to winning,” Sutherland said. “Ultimately that’s what you take away the most. It had been a long time. You start wondering if it’s going to happen again.”

Monday was special in that he was able to share his accomplishment with his father, Bill, who rode along to Fresno, as well as former teammates and current players and coaches at Fresno State, his alma mater.

“It was an amazing day, actually,” Sutherland said. “My dad and I got to spend a day talking. That was a very special time in the car with him.”

Sutherland reunited with his college coach, Mike Watney, who is now retired.

“I got some big hugs,” he said. “Fresno was a big part of my life. It was good to see some people who helped me along the way.”

Sutherland said Watney was hugely instrumental in his development in golf, so much so that he still remembers his coach’s sage advice.

“Stay the course, be patient,” he said. “A great player’s body language doesn’t change when you hit a bad shot. I always try to remember little pieces of advice like that.”

Tuesday morning, Sutherland and his 17-year-old son, Keaton, watched a recorded version of Sunday’s final round at Phoenix Country Club in which his 6-under-par 66 produced a one-shot victory.

“It was fun to watch it with him and talk about some of the stuff that was going on,” Sutherland said. “It was actually more nerve-wracking watching than playing. I found myself saying stuff like, ‘If that putt goes in, it changes everything.’ I was getting kind of nervous.”

They talked about the 18th hole, when Sutherland had a two-shot lead and 200 yards on his second shot to the par-5 hole with water on the right.

“I only had a 6-iron, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure about (where) Lee Janzen (stood in the group behind),” he said. “It’s a small target. I was a little unsure. There was some talk about laying it up. Part of me said, ‘You had better not hit this ball in the water.’ I tugged it left a little bit.

“(Nephew) Matthew (Sutherland) and Keaton (streaming it live on their computer Sunday) were hoping I would lay up. That’s the kind of stuff we were talking about. It was fun.”

Sutherland made a closing par from left of the green.

He’s off to Monterey this week to play in the multi-tour Pebble Beach Invitational. Then he’s off until the winners-only Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii in January to start the 2018 PGA Tour Champions season.

He’s ready for the break.

“I am one tired puppy,” he said.

Granite Bay girls fourth

Granite Bay shot a 43-over 398 Tuesday at Poppy Hills to finish fourth in the CIF Girls State Golf Championship.

Southern California high schools finished 1-2-3 in the six-team event. University-Irvine (383) was the winner, followed by Troy-Fullerton (390) and Walnut (391).

Freshman Yewon Jang led the Grizzlies with a 5-over 76. UC Irvine-bound senior Sienna Lyford, who was under par in each of the previous three playoff rounds, shot an 82.

Et cetera

▪ Marissa Mar (El Macero), who tied for medalist after 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying, won three matches to advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in Houston. The title match is Thursday.

▪ John Catlin (Gold River) won an Asian Development Tour event in Malaysia to rise to third on the tour money list with three events remaining. The top five at season’s end earn a spot on next year’s Asian Tour.

▪ Briana Mao (Folsom), Kim Welch (Roseville) and Demi Runas (UC Davis) have reached the final stage of the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament later this month in Florida.

Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526