Pressure? The LSU men’s golf team has come to expect it.
The program has been performing on a high level the past five years, dating back to a trip to the 2014 NCAA semifinals followed by 2015’s NCAA championship and another match play appearance in 2016.
Coming off a three-win regular season and a strong performance in the SEC Championships (LSU finished first in stroke play before reaching the match play semifinals), the Tigers are the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Stockton (California) regional, which begins Monday at The Reserve at Spanos Park.
Is there pressure attached to the Tigers’ seeding? LSU coach Chuck Winstead said his players have come to expect it.
“The guys on our team are high-level players,” he said. “They have achieved at a high level, and they expect to do the same thing in college.”
A year after losing national player of the year Sam Burns to the professional tours plus three seniors, the Tigers might not have been expected to be in this position. But a consistent lineup that hasn’t changed all season led by junior Luis Gagne, recently selected first-team All-SEC and to the international Arnold Palmer Cup team, has the Tigers ranked No. 6 nationally heading into NCAA play.
“I like our team,” Winstead said. “We got better through the year. A lot of people would have looked at our roster at the beginning of the year, saw we returned two players and said, ‘Will they be able to perform at a level like the last four or five teams have done?’ They’ve certainly done that. I’m proud of their advancement.”
Gagne has an individual win and four top-10s in 12 events with a team-best 71.24 stroke average. He will be joined in Stockton by Philip Barbaree (five top-10s, 72.12 stroke average), Chuck Winstead’s son Trey (five top-10s, 72.12), Jacob Bergeron (one win, 72.44) and Nathan Jeansonne (two top-10s, 72.82).
The Tigers face 12 other teams in Stockton, with the top five advancing to the NCAA Championships, May 25-30 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Also in the regional are No. 7 Alabama, No. 18 Stanford, No. 19 Southern California and 2016 NCAA champion Oregon, which advanced out of the NCAA regional at the University Club this past year along with LSU.
Winstead said he has never seen The Reserve course but heard his Tigers will need to post some red figures to advance.
“The little bit I’ve heard is it isn’t overly demanding,” he said. “We’ll see when we get out there. You’d like it to be harder in the postseason because it separates the field. It looks like the weather will be good. If that’s the case it’ll be a little bit of a shootout. We’ll just need to be on form.”
Live tournament stats are available on Golfstat.com.