Chuck Winstead knows his LSU golfers are playing well going into this year’s NCAA championships, well enough to repeat as champions if they keep going the way they are.
Ranked in comparison to how other teams around the country are performing this spring, LSU is No. 2 nationally. It bodes well for a team that has been to six of the past seven NCAA championships and has been among the eight qualifying for match play the last two seasons.
But golf is played under many different conditions in many parts of the country. Last year’s championships were at The Concession in Bradenton, Florida, a course similar to LSU’s home course at the University Club: hot, humid and windy.
Winstead remembers well what Oregon golf coach Casey Martin told him about this year’s host site, Eugene Country Club, where play begins Friday.
“He said, ‘You take Concession and do exactly the opposite, and that’s Eugene Coutnry Club,’ ” Winstead recalled. Oregon didn’t crack the top 15 last year, perhaps in part because the Ducks were out of their element.
The NCAA women’s championships were just completed at Eugene, a course with tight, tree-lined fairways. It’s worth noting that two Pac-12 teams ended up battling in the women’s championship match at Eugene, with Washington edging Stanford 3-2 on Wednesday night in a thrilling final.
LSU women’s coach Karen Bahnsen, accompanying senior Elise Bradley to the NCAA women’s championships last week, sent Winstead messages about the course.
“The first thing she noticed was it’s a narrow driving course,” he said. “They thought it’s a good test.
“Whether we acclimate to this golf course remains to be seen,” Winstead said. “That’s part of the challenge.”
LSU finished third in its regional in Franklin, Tennessee, last week and is seeded 12th among 30 teams for the NCAA championships.
There will be three rounds of stroke play Friday through Sunday, after which the field will be cut to teams with the 15 best scores. The top eight teams after Monday’s final round advance to the match play quarterfinals.
The individual champion will be crowned after Monday’s final round. LSU’s John Peterson won the individual title in 2011 in Stillwater, Oklahoma, making LSU the only men’s program to have a team and individual champion in the last five years.
LSU will be going with a lineup that features three All-Americans who were part of last year’s championship five: senior Zach Wright and juniors Brandon Pierce and Eric Ricard, along with freshmen Sam Burns and Luis Gagne.
Ricard tied for ninth in the Franklin regional while Burns tied for 14th.
This will be the fourth trip to the NCAA championships in as many seasons for Wright.
“It has a different feel because we have a completely different team,” he said. “Last year we were more of an older group. It’s a different course, different everything. It feels like a new tournament.
“I think we’re just as confident. They’re freshman but they’ve been here for awhile. I think we have the confidence to compete with anyone.”
The title last year was LSU’s fifth and first since 1955.
The Golf Channel will broadcast Monday’s final round of stroke play live starting at 6 p.m. CDT. The network will also show the match play rounds starting Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. CDT and Wednesday’s final at 5 p.m.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.