In golf, a light grip pressure on the club is always best.
When it comes to gripping a trophy, hold on tight and never let go.
Covington’s Brandon Pierce held firm to the LSU men’s golf team’s NCAA championship trophy as he and his teammates and coaches milled with dozens of well-wishers Thursday in front of the LSU athletic administration building upon their return to campus.
“It hasn’t even soaked in yet,” Pierce said.
It was a whirlwind first 24 hours for college golf’s newest champions, who captured LSU’s first men’s team golf championship in 60 years with a 4-1 victory Wednesday over Southern California in Bradenton, Florida.
The team, which also included Shreveport’s Eric Ricard, Ben Taylor, Stewart Jolly and Zach Wright, hastily returned to their hotel Wednesday night to pack up. They then made the short flight to Orlando, Florida, where they were featured on the Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” program Thursday.
Then it was back to the airport for the flight home, followed by a police escort to campus where family, friends, fellow LSU coaches and a costumed Mike the Tiger were waiting to greet them.
“It’s very special,” said men’s golf coach Chuck Winstead, himself a former LSU golfer. “What makes LSU special is the people. To see everyone here, that they would take the time to come out and show these guys support means the world.”
Among the coaches on hand to greet the golf team included football coach Les Miles, softball coach Beth Torina, gymnastics coach D-D Breaux, volleyball coach Fran Flory, soccer coach Brian Lee and women’s golf coach Karen Bahnsen.
Bahnsen’s Lady Tigers competed in NCAA women’s championships last week on the same course as the men, The Concession Golf Club, tying for 20th.
After passing along their notes about the course, the Lady Tigers returned home. Bahnsen and assistant coach Alexis Rather were coming back from a seminar as they tried to follow the progress of the men’s championship match.
“We were trying to watch it on our iPads between flights and they were telling me to turn it off on the plane and I was like, ‘No!’ ” Bahnsen said.
Bahnsen’s team shares a facility at the University Club with the men’s team, where their NCAA trophy will soon go on display next to the women’s third-place trophies from 2011 and 2012 and the men’s third-place trophy from last year.
“We’re a golf program,” she said. “That’s what’s so special.”
Miles, who led LSU to the BCS national championship in 2007, knew well what Winstead and his players were experiencing.
“It’s a wonderful thing when you realize all your hard work is suddenly validated with a championship,” he said. “It’s the most affirming moment. You do all this, have all this dedication and sacrifice, and it comes true.”
It’s the fifth NCAA title for men’s golf and the 43rd NCAA title for LSU overall, plus three championships in football and a non-NCAA basketball title in 1935.
Senior associate athletic director Eddie Nunez said the school is working to see if the NCAA will grant permission to honor the golf team during this weekend’s baseball super regional at Alex Box Stadium between LSU and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.