A familiar venue with a new format awaits the No. 3-ranked LSU men’s golf team when the Tigers tee it up Friday at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Georgia, for the Southeastern Conference Championships.
The SEC has added three rounds of match play to its three rounds of stroke play to determine the champion. Teams will play 36 holes Friday and 18 holes Saturday, with match play taking place Sunday and Monday. Portions of the final will be shown April 30 on the SEC Network.
“We’re very excited about it,” LSU coach Chuck Winstead said. “Our guys love the format. We’ve been fortunate to play in the format three times in the NCAA championships.”
LSU won the 2015 SEC title at stroke play then went on to win the NCAA title at match play. The Tigers also reached the final eight for match play in 2014 (reaching the semifinals) and last year.
LSU is enjoying an exceptional season. Winstead said the team stroke average of 283.8 is two strokes per round better than it was in 2015 and the best he’s had in his 12 years as LSU’s coach. This spring, the Tigers have three wins (including their own Tiger Classic) two thirds and a fourth.
“We need to continue to have everyone contribute,” Winstead said, “but at the same time be a better brand of what we’ve been.”
LSU is led by sophomore Sam Burns of Shreveport, who’s having a stellar season on his own. Currently ranked No. 2 nationally, Burns has finished in the top 10 in all 12 of his tournaments with three wins (including LSU’s David Toms Intercollegiate and UL-Lafayette’s Louisiana Classics tournament) with a stroke average of 69.76.
“He’s been tremendous,” Winstead said.
The Tigers have two other players ranked in the top 35 nationally, sophomore Luis Gagne (No. 31) and senior Brandon Pierce (No. 32).
Meanwhile for the LSU women’s golf team, it’s been a difficult season leading up to its SEC Championships this weekend at Greystone Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama. Other than a dual-match victory over ULM last week in their Spring Break Classic at the Country Club of Louisiana, the Lady Tigers haven’t finished higher than 10th this spring.
“Obviously we’re not having our best year by any means,” LSU women’s coach Karen Bahnsen said. “But I’ve been saying this all year and I still believe it, this team is so close to playing well. We just haven’t been able to put together that fourth score. That’s been our nemesis all year.
“It’s late, but it’s never too late. I’d love to see us finish top three (at SECs). It’s a lofty goal but realistic if we play the golf we’re capable of playing.”
LSU is led by sophomore Kathleen Gallagher, named SEC player of the week after finishing first in the ULM match. Gallagher is the daughter of former PGA touring pro Jim Gallagher, and her mother Cissye Meeks Gallagher and aunt Jackie Gallagher played at LSU.
“She needed that for her confidence,” Bahnsen said of Gallagher. “She hasn’t really gone low, it’s just a matter of getting some putts to fall.”