Golf

Sutherland Brothers will have home-course advantage this weekend

Kevin Sutherland grew up a 300-yard drive away from Del Paso Country Club, site of this week’s U.S. Senior Open, so his course knowledge could be a major advantage.

Another huge advantage: his brother, David, a former PGA Tour player, will be his caddie.

The Christian Brothers High School graduates grew up playing Del Paso Country Club, where Kevin said Tuesday during a media scrum his record against his brother is all even. The two will put their considerable experience together and try to earn the lion’s share of the $3.5 million purse.

“It’s going to be a great experience for the two of us,” Sutherland said. “(David) caddied for me at Merion at the U.S. Open (2013), and he caddied for me the week before that, and we just had a great time. It was truly special.”

The brothers pulled for and competed against each other for years on the PGA Tour, but Kevin said it will be a lot of fun to be on the same team starting Thursday.

Kevin is eighth on the Champions Tour money list with $594,810 in 10 events. He joined the Champions Tour midway through 2014, when he turned 50. David, 49, is the director of golf at Sacramento State.

Sutherland’s full-time caddie, Bill Lewis, is on Skip Kendall’s bag this week so he’s not missing out on a paycheck.

“I bandied this about for the last year, knowing that we were coming here and if I should have my brother,” Kevin said. “(Billy) has done a fantastic job. I talked to him three weeks ago and said, ‘Hey, it’s not about what you’ve done. I’m going to have my brother caddie for me.’”

Gulbis’ homecoming – Natalie Gulbis worked as a TV analyst at last week’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in Washington and is relishing her return to Sacramento to help cover the U.S. Senior Open.

The LPGA Tour star learned to play on area courses and played on the Granite Bay High School boys team before turning pro. She yearns for the return of an LPGA tournament to the area and said Tuesday she will try to make that happen once she retires from full-time play at the end of the 2015 season to try to start a family.

“I’m wearing my Sacramento hat, and this is a good opportunity for the LPGA to get back and to capitalize on all the good vibes that are going to come out of this week,” Gulbis said. “(The U.S. Senior Open) is going to be a huge event. There’s going to be a lot of people that are going to be excited about golf in Sacramento. A lot of the golf courses are going to benefit, but it also opens up the opportunity and the conversation early to get an LPGA event back here. I miss playing in Sacramento.”

The last LPGA event in the Sacramento area was the 2005 Long’s Drugs Challenge at The Ridge in Auburn.

Gulbis said she has had conversations with (LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan) on “why we don’t play here because this is an incredible sports town. The LPGA was always supported here. Every bit of golf has been supported here, whether it was when we had the Raley’s Senior Gold Rush, when that moved around. We need to put the pieces together, and we have openings on our schedule. Hopefully, maybe there will be some contacts or some conversations that are started here this week. I would love, love, love to see an LPGA event back here in Sacramento.”

Couples withdraws – Fred Couples has withdrawn from the Senior Open due to a back injury. Couples has been replaced by Paul Trittler of Cave Creek, Ariz., who was the first alternate from the San Tan Valley, Ariz., sectional qualifying site.

Couples, a fan favorite, has won 11 times on the Champions Tour and was the runner-up to Bernhard Langer at the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, his best finish in his three U.S. Senior Open starts.

Couples’ most notable PGA Tour win was the 1992 Masters. He also won The Players Championship in 1984 and 1996.

Mark Billingsley, editorwriter@att.net, @editorwriter001.

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