CEDAR CITY, Utah, April 22 – Southern Utah University’s men’s golf team will shoot for its first team-berth to the NCAA tournament this weekend when the Thunderbirds compete at the America Sky Conference Championships, which run Friday through Sunday at the par 72, 6,749-yard Greenhorn Creek Golf Club in Angels Camp, Calif.

Senior Jake Holt, juniors Nic Booth, Sammy Cole and Tim Leonard, and freshman Jameson Keiley are scheduled to compete for the Thunderbirds.

The seven-team field for the tournament will include SUU, Binghampton, Hartford, North Dakota, Northern Colorado, Sacramento State and Weber State.

This will be the final go-around for the America Sky Tournament, as the Big Sky – home to five of the seven ASC teams – will begin sponsoring men’s golf next season. Idaho will join the BSC next year, giving the conference six member teams, and the Sky has extended affiliate-member status to both Binghampton and Hartford.

The Thunderbirds, who are coming off a 19th-place finish at Wyoming’s Cowboy Classic, finished second at the ASC last year.

Last Year at the America Sky Tournament: Houston Baptist came from behind to thwart Southern Utah’s hopes for an American Sky championship, overcoming a five-stroke deficit on the back nine of the final round at San Antonio’s par 72, 6,936-yard Dominion Country Club to take the win over the Thunderbirds. After making the turn with all five players in the top-20, SUU struggled on the back nine (the more difficult track all week) on the final day, coming in at 6-over par for that nine and 5-over for the day.  HBU finished at 7-over par 871 while SUU finished second at 10-over 874. Utah Valley was another stroke back in third place. Jake Holt was SUU’s low finisher, tied for fifth at 216, followed by Taylor Schone in 11th (219), John Reid (221) in 16th, Tim Leonard (222) in 18th at 222 and Sammy Cole (225) in 24th. Sacramento State (877) finished fourth, followed by Northern Colorado (880), Hartford (890)  and Binghamton (900). UT Pan American and Cal State Bakersfield were tied in eighth at 909 with Weber State (913) 10th, followed by North Dakota (937) and Chicago State (1,037).

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: Sammy Cole fired a final-round 66 – tying the third-lowest round of the tournament – Tuesday to finish at 2-under par 208 and with a share of 10th place, leading SUU’s men’s golf team to a 19th place finish at Wyoming’s Cowboy Classic. The 21 team tournament was contested at the par 70, 7,133-yard North Course at Talking Stick Golf Club. Cole was in 21st place after shooting back-to-back rounds of one-over par 71 on Monday and he finished at 208, just four shots behind individual champion Michael Gellerman (66-70-68, 204) of team champion Oklahoma. The Thunderbirds were in sixth place after an opening-round 283 but faltered with a second-round 303 before shooting 295 on Tuesday for a final score of 41-over par 881, 50 shots off the pace of Oklahoma. The Sooners led wire-to-wire and finished at 9-under 831 after a 217 on Tuesday. BYU and Colorado, the only other teams to finish under par, finished tied for second at 838.  Jake Holt (69-76-76) finished second among T-Birds, in 63rd place, at 11-over par 221, while Nic Booth (73-78-76) and Tim Leonard (70-78-79) finished in a tie for 88th at 227. Jamison Keiley (79-79-77) rounded out SUU’s entry in 109th at 235. SUU finished three shots behind 18th place UTEP and 14 shots clear of 20th place Weber State.