CEDAR CITY, Utah, Feb. 4 - Southern Utah University's men's golf team opens its 2013 spring season next week when the Thunderbirds host the Ninth Annual Pat Hicks Thunderbird Invitational at Sunbrook Golf Club in St. George, Utah.
The tournament will be contested Monday and Tuesday over the Point and Woodbridge nines at Sunbrook, a par 72, 6,879-yard layout.
This year's 14-team field includes Boise State, Cal Poly, Cal State Bakersfield, College of Charleston, Denver, Dixie State, Idaho, Northern Colorado, Oral Roberts, Seattle U., Utah State, Utah Valley, Weber State, and host Southern Utah. Denver is returning to the field after a three-year hiatus while Idaho and Northern Colorado are making their first appearances at the invitational.
There will be no repeat champion this year as defending team champion Cal State Fullerton is not in the field, while 2012 individual medalist Chris Russo will also not be back as the Matadors will miss the tournament for the first time in the history of the tournament.
Junior Jake Holt and Taylor Schone, sophomores Sammy Cole and Tim Leonard and freshmen Connor Van Gilder and will compete for the Thunderbirds, while and Brady Wellburn and John Reid are scheduled to compete as individuals.
The Thunderbirds, who wrapped up the fall 2012 schedule with a seventh-place finish at the Bill Cullum Invitational, finished second at the Pat Hicks Thunderbird Invitational last year.
The 2012 Thunderbird Invitational: Cal State Fullerton shot one-under par 287 to slip past SUU and claim the title with a total score of one-under 575. The Thunderbirds slipped to 293 after firing 284 on Monday to finish second, two shots back at one-over par 577. SUU's Jeff Evans - who shot 71 in both rounds - finished in a three-way tie with Northridge's Jason Rosenkrantz and Oral Roberts' Shannon Allen in fourth place, at 142. Brad Millard, who held the first-round lead after a 67 on Monday, slipped to ninth place after shooting 77 on Tuesday to finish at even par 144. Sammy Cole was tied in ninth after shooting 73 on Tuesday. Rounding out Southern Utah's entry Nic Booth (75-75, 150) was 32nd while Jake Holt (79-74, 153) finished 45th. Three Thunderbirds competed as individuals, led by Jordan Orth, who finished 41st at 152 (77-75), with Greg Kerber (75-79, 154) 54th and Tyler Hunt (93-87, 180) 90th. College of Charleston and Cal Poly finished tied for third at 7-over 583, with Northridge fifth at 585 and Oral Roberts sixth at 588. Dixie State and Western Illinois were tied in seventh at 599, followed by Utah State (603), Utah Valley (607), Boise State (608) and Weber State (611). Cal State Bakersfield and Seattle University finished tied for 13th at 617.
The Coach: Richard Church (Utah '89) is in his 13th season as head golf coach and his 17th on the staff at Southern Utah. Prior to taking over the program from former Coach John Evans, Church spent four seasons as the Thunderbirds' assistant coach. During his tenure on the SUU staff, Church has coached five academic all-Americans, one Mid-Continent Conference medalist, two Mid-Con runner-ups and the University's first NCAA post-season competitor in golf. He has also seen the team finish second in the league six times since SUU began competing in The Summit League (ne. Mid-Con) in 1997-98.
Last Time Out: Jake Holt finished ninth to lead Southern Utah's men's golf team to a seventh-place finish at the 20-team Bill Cullum Invitational. The tournament was held at the 6,801-yard, par 72 Woodranch Golf Club. Holt shot 2-under par 70 on Tuesday for a final total of 1-under 215. He opened with a 72 before shooting 73 in the second round. Sammy Cole (78-70-77) and Taylor Schone (76-72-77) finished tied for second among Thunderbirds at 9-over par 225 and in 41st place, while Tim Leonard (79-72-80) finished 69th at 231 and John Reid (78-82-72) was 74th at 232. Brady Welburn (80-85-79, 244) and Connor Van Gilder (87-81-79, 247), playing as individuals, finished 101st and 106th, respectively. SUU, which opened with a 304 , then followed with rounds of 287 and 296, shot 23-over par 887 to finish two shots up on Boise State (889) and four ahead of Loyola Marymount (891). Utah State finished 11th at 896, with Weber State 14th at 910. University of San Diego ran away with the team championship, shooting 14-under par 850, nine shots better than Arizona State, the only other team to finish under par.