In Chuck Winstead’s University Club office sits a large portrait photo of his 2015 LSU golf team. It’s an obvious team to commemorate, given that those Tigers won LSU’s first NCAA championship in 60 years.
Winstead said he believes the team he has this year could turn out to be just as picture perfect.
The Tigers begin their quest for the program’s sixth NCAA championship Monday in the Stanford regional in Palo Alto, California. LSU, tied for 12th in the most recent NCAA golf rankings, is the No. 3 seed behind Arizona State and host Stanford.
Winstead, who is leading a team to a 12th straight NCAA regional appearance and 13th in his 14 seasons as coach, said his Tigers are as talented as that title-winning team four years ago.
“We’re a good round or two and a good finish at regionals from going to nationals and doing something special,” Winstead said.
“We have a good team, and yet we haven’t had a breakout win other than The Prestige, which was back in February. We’re due, and we know we’re due. We have the talent to do it.”
LSU’s win in The Prestige was indeed memorable, coming as it did by six strokes over No. 1-ranked Oklahoma State. The Tigers also won their own David Toms Intercollegiate at the U-Club in October.
The Tigers are going with the same lineup that they have used most of the season: seniors Luis Gagne and Nathan Jeansonne, junior Philip Barbaree, sophomore Trey Winstead and freshman Garrett Barber. Another freshman, Michael Sanders, is going on the trip as LSU’s alternate.
It’s a group loaded with NCAA experience and experience playing out West. Gagne, the 2018 U.S. Open low amateur, Barbaree, Winstead and Barber all played near Stanford in August’s U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill.
“We’ve had success out West,” said Chuck Winstead, also referring to his team’s win in The Prestige which came in La Quinta, California. “While the grass at Pebble Beach and Spyglass is slightly different from Stanford, just having been there in August isn’t a bad thing.”
The top five teams in the 13-team regional advance to the NCAA Championships from May 24-29 at The Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Tigers have the added motivation to get there with a little something to prove after an off performance at the SEC Championship last month, finishing just out of match play in ninth place.
“There’s no question we were disappointed in our performance at SECs,” Winstead said. “For our guys it’s not a lack of effort; they just weren’t quite on form that week.
"Our scoring averages are as low as they’ve ever been. But you need four scores out of five and a lot of times we’ve had three. So we’ve kind of hovered right there beneath where we want to be. But all that said, if our guys round into form we’ve shown this year that if we play the way we can play we can compete with anybody out there.”
Also participating in the Stanford regional as an individual player is Guillaume Fanonnel from UL-Monroe. The only other Louisiana school represented in NCAA play is McNeese State, whose Blake Elliott will compete as an individual in Austin, Texas.
GolfStat.com will provide live scoring from all six NCAA regionals.