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LSU women's golf coach Karen Bahnsen holds the flagstick on the second hole during an NCAA regional golf tournament at the University Club.

Advocate file photo by BILL FEIG

The LSU women’s golf team opens its spring season close to home, with an eye to improving enough to finish it far away.

LSU joins host Tulane and 15 other teams Sunday for the first round of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate. The tournament is played through Tuesday at English Turn Golf and Country Club in New Orleans, former home of the Zurich Classic.

It was a bumpy fall schedule for the most part for the Lady Tigers, as they failed to finish in the top half of the field in their first three starts. Then in The Landfall Tradition in Wilmington, North Carolina, LSU finished sixth behind five nationally ranked teams and ahead of four others in the top 25 out of a field of 18.

“We were encouraged,” said LSU coach Karen Bahnsen, now in her 34th season. “The team got a taste of being more competitive. I feel it gave them some confidence heading into the spring.”

LSU is led once again by junior Kathleen Gallagher. The product of a golfing family, her father, Jim, won five times on the PGA Tour and now plays on the Champions Tour (and works on Golf Channel), while mom ,Cissye, and aunt, Jackie Gallagher Smith, both played for Bahnsen.

Kathleen led LSU with a 73.82 fall stroke average and had the Lady Tigers’ only top-10 finish.

“Kathleen is a great team player and leader,” Bahnsen said. “She comes from a great family — not just in golf — but having that golf knowledge helps her a lot.”

Joining Gallagher in the Sugar Bowl Intercolleigate will be the same other four starters as in The Landfall: seniors Claudia De Antonio and Sydney Cavin from Baton Rouge, and freshmen Kendall Griffin and Mary Frances Chauvin from Hammond. Junior Page Morehead will play as an unattached individual.

The Lady Tigers will host their own LSU Tiger Golf Classic, March 23-25 at the University Club.

LSU has made it at least to an NCAA regional every year since 2003. Though they got their 2017-18 campaign off to a slow start, Bahnsen is optimistic that the Lady Tigers can get back there by season’s end, aiming for first an NCAA regional then the NCAA championships, May 19-23 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

“Our goals are to improve every tournament,” she said, “gain confidence and be competitive. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”

LSU women’s golf schedule

Sun.-Tues. Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate English Turn G&CC

March 2-4 Darius Rucker Intercollegiate Hilton Head, S.C.

March 23-25 LSU Tiger Golf Classic University Club

April 8-10 Brickyard Collegiate Macon, Ga.

April 18-20 SEC Championship Birmingham, Ala.

May 7-9 NCAA regional TBD

May 19-23 NCAA Championships Stillwater, Okla.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​