LSU’s young but talented men’s golf team ready for season _lowres

Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNIS --LSU golf coach x speaks to the crowd after he and his team came home with the national championship trophy at the NCAA tournament in June.

The defending NCAA champion LSU men’s golf team has released its 2015-16 schedule, which includes its one home tournament this fall.

LSU will play a five-event fall schedule, starting Sept. 11-13 with the Carpet Capital Collegiate Classic in Rocky Face, Georgia.

The Tigers will defend the title in their David Toms Intercollegiate, Oct. 10-11 at The University Club. They wrap up the fall Nov. 2-3 in the East Lake Cup at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club, annual site of the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour.

LSU’s spring schedule starts with The Prestige at PGA West, Feb. 15-17 in LaQuinta, California. The Tigers return to St. Simons Island, Georgia, to defend their Southeastern Conference team title April 15-17, then will hope to open NCAA regional play May 16 at one of six regional sites.

The NCAA championships are set for May 27-June 1 at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Oregon. LSU won this year’s NCAA title, its fifth overall and first since 1955, at The Concession in Bradenton, Florida.

The Tigers will also defend their title in the Golfweek Conference Challenge, Sept. 25-27 in Burlington, Iowa.

Chuck Winstead, the former LSU golfer entering his 11th season as its coach, said his team’s approach entering this year will be as it always has been.

“It’s the first time that we will start the year coming off the ultimate success from last year,” Winstead said, “but it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.

“Our goals have to be to get better individually. These guys’ goals stretch past college golf. It’s easy to look at the world of pro golf and see they have some growing to do to perform at that level.”

Winstead brings back three players from LSU’s NCAA championship squad to his eight-man team: juniors Brandon Pierce and Eric Ricard and senior Zach Wright. Wright was 3-0 in the match play portion of the NCAA championships, while Pierce and Ricard were 2-0-1.

Pierce, a junior from Covington, is recovering from a broken vertebra he suffered in June when he dove headfirst into a pond near his Baton Rouge apartment shortly after the Tigers returned from winning their NCAA title. Winstead said Pierce is improving but isn’t expecting him to play in September.

“I would love to have him back for the beginning of the season,” the coach said, “but at least for our home event.”

Winstead assembled a strong recruiting class led by Shreveport’s Sam Burns, the world No. 1-ranked junior golfer, along with Nathan Jeansonne of Keithville and Luis Gagne of Orlando, Florida.

Other players include sophomore Blake Caldwell of Pontchatoula and junior Rhyne Jones.

Burns and Ricard are qualified to play in the U.S. Amateur, Aug. 17-23 at Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago.