There’s a new standard in play for LSU men’s golf.
After winning the school’s first NCAA championship in 60 years and first Southeastern Conference title since 1987 last spring, the Tigers faced big expectations going into the 2015-16 season.
Though LSU took some big hits from that championship team with the loss of seniors Ben Taylor and Stewart Jolly, coach Chuck Winstead is confident his youthful but talented team built a good foundation in the fall for more success in the spring.
“I think we learned a lot,” said Winstead, whose team opens the spring season Monday in The Prestige at PGA West tournament in La Quinta, California. “Golf is one of those sports that competes over both semesters. There’s an advantage to that in that you can really learn a lot. It’s up to us to learn and make it better in the spring.”
LSU won its home tournament last fall at the University Club and finished fourth, ninth and 11th in its other three starts. The Tigers have four scheduled events this spring before trying to repeat their SEC team title in April in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
LSU signed one of the nation’s best recruiting classes last year spearheaded by two Shreveport-area freshmen: Sam Burns and Nathan Jeansonne.
Jeansonne only played in two events but led the team with a 71.5 strong average, tying for second behind teammate Eric Ricard in LSU’s David Toms Intercollegiate. Burns played in all four of the Tigers’ team events, finishing third on the team in fall stroke average (73.5).
“He wasn’t quite on form through the summer,” Winstead said of Burns, the former world No. 1-ranked junior golfer. “I think as he continues to have reps through the spring he can gain momentum. He’s an elite player and he’s going to play some very good golf soon.”
Junior Brandon Pierce is also trying to return to form after a serious neck injury last summer. Pierce jumped head first into a pond near his Baton Rouge apartment after returning from the NCAA Championships.
“His health is great, which is the main thing,” Winstead said. “He’s at full speed. The fact is he was away from golf for several months and it just takes time. His game has shown good signs of late. I’m encouraged.”
Winstead called Zach Wright, LSU’s only senior, it’s most consistent performer so far this season. Wright was second on the team with a 72.07 stroke average and had three top-10 finishes.
“He’s our most consistent player not only in tournaments but in practice,” Winstead said. “For us to be successful we need to be similar to last year’s team in that we’re five or six deep and getting consistent play across the board.”
Jeansonne, Wright, Burns, Ricard and Pierce traveled to compete in The Prestige.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.