CEDAR CITY, Utah, Oct. 16 – Southern Utah University’s men’s golf team plays host to the opening event of its 2014 spring season next week when the Pat Hicks Thunderbird Invitational is held on Monday and Tuesday at Sunbrook Golf Club in St. George, Utah.

The two-day, 36-hole tournament will be contested over the Pointe and Black Rock nines at Sunbrook. After two years of playing the tournament over Sunbrook’s Pointe and Woodbridge nines, it returns to the Pointe and Black Rock in 2014. It is a par 72, 6,781-yard layout.

Senior Jake Holt, juniors Nic Booth, Sammy Cole and Tim Leonard and freshman Jameson Keiley are scheduled to compete for the Thunderbirds while freshman Braxton Williams will compete as an individual.

The 10-team field includes Boise State, Dixie State, Cal State Northridge, North Dakota, Oral Roberts, Seattle, Utah State, Utah Valley, Weber State and host Southern Utah. There is one first-time entry in the field, the University of North Dakota, while Cal State Northridge returns after a one-year hiatus. The other eight teams all participated last year. Defending champion Cal Poly is not in this year’s field.

SUU wrapped up the fall schedule with a 15th place finish at Northridge’s Bill Cullum Invitational. Nic Booth finished in 10th place at 2-under par 214 to lead the Thunderbirds.

Last Year At the Pat Hicks Thunderbird Invitational: Cal Poly came from eight shots off the pace to claim the title at the ninth annual Invitational and the Mustangs’ Camden Price won the individual championship after outlasting Charleston’ Zach Munroe and Utah State’s Tanner Higham in a six-hole playoff.  Southern Utah shot 306 on Tuesday after an opening round 303 for a two-day total 609, which left the host Thunderbirds in 11th place after entering the final round in eighth.  Tim Leonard paced SUU with a 29th place finish at 7-over par 151, with Jake Holt second among Thunderbirds in 41st at 152. Sammy Cole was 46th at 153, Taylor Schone finished 65th at 156 and Connor Van Gilder was 79th at 160. John Reid, who was playing as an individual, finished tied with Leonard in 29th at 151, while Brady Welburn – who also competed as an individual – was 86th at 164.

The Coach: Richard Church (Utah ‘89) is in his 14th season as head golf coach and his 18th 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 seven times during his tenure as head or assistant coach, including last season when the ‘Birds finished second in their inaugural season in the America Sky Conference.

Last Time Out: Nic Booth finished 10th at 2-under par 214 but no other Thunderbird was in the top-30 as Southern Utah slipped four spots in the final round to wrap up 2013 with a 15th place finish at the 20-team Bill Cullum Invitational. Booth finished the final round with three straight birdies to move up 20 spots on the final day of play and card his first top-10 finish of the season. Sammy Cole was second among Thunderbirds in 32nd place at 3-over par 219, with Tim Leonard 57th at 225, Jake Holt 76th at 230 and Jameson Keiley 102nd at 242. The Thunderbirds opened with a round of 300 and followed with a round of 287 to sit tied with Gonzaga in 11th place heading into the final round. SUU’s final-round 301 allowed Gonzaga, Sacramento State, Hawaii and Seattle all to move past the Thunderbirds, however. SUU finished at 24-over par 888, 39 shots off the pace of tournament champ Cal State Fullerton, which finished at 15-under 849, one shot better than San Diego and three ahead of No. 24 Arizona State. SUU finished 10 shots clear of 16th-place Utah Valley.