There is no Sam Burns on the LSU men’s golf team this year.
The national player of the year turned pro last summer and is now playing for prize money instead of scholarship money on the PGA and Web.com tours.
But that doesn’t mean all is lost for this year's Tigers. Far from it.
“We had a good fall, probably better than last year,” LSU coach Chuck Winstead said. “If I had to bet, I’d say we’re ahead of pace from last year.”
The Tigers won two of their five fall starts, capturing their own David Toms Intercollegiate in October and smoking the field in the Kaanapali Collegiate Classic in Hawaii in November with a 31-under-par performance to win by seven strokes.
Now LSU, ranked No. 10 nationally entering the spring, heads back to the links, opening its spring schedule Monday and Tuesday in the Sea Best Invitational at the TPC Sawgrass Dye’s Valley Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Winstead said he's not looking for someone to replace Burns.
“The fall suggested we’re more balanced," he said. "While that may mean at the very top our scoring average isn’t as low as it was with Sam, our bottom maybe better. Either way, from a team perspective, I like this group.”
The Tigers fielded the same five golfers in all five fall tournaments: juniors Luis Gagne and Nathan Jeansonne, sophomore Philip Barbaree and freshmen Jacob Bergeron and Trey Winstead, the coach's son, a two-time state champion at University High. Chuck Winstead said the same five will compete this week in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Bergeron, from Slidell, shared first-place individual honors with Gagne in the David Toms, and Bergeron led the Tigers with a 71.29-stroke average. Gagne was right behind at 71.64. Barbaree and Winstead led the Tigers with three top-10 finishes each.
Winstead said he picks his team for each tournament on qualifying and overall form.
“Why throw Alex Lange? Even if he’s not in form, when you see him he’s the best pitcher.
“Luis Gagne is my most proven commodity,” Winstead said. “He’s going to pitch.”
Winstead said his son Trey has had to prove himself to be part of the lineup, adding that he hasn’t felt any pressure to show the coach is handling him fairly compared to LSU’s other players.
“We do it the way we always do it,” he said. “I handle him the say way we’ve done it for 13 years. He had a nice fall. Yet in our first event he didn’t play well at all (tie for 70th). We came back and the other four played well enough to be in the next lineup, but we put (Trey) in the qualifier. He fought his way back.”
LSU, which hosted an NCAA regional last year at the University Club and does so again in 2020, doesn’t have any home tournaments this spring.
The Tigers go to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in April for the SEC Championship and will be on the road for a regional. The NCAA Championships are May 25-30 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
LSU, which won the NCAA title in 2015, has finished third, first, fifth and ninth the last four years, the only team to finish that high nationally since 2014.
LSU men’s golf schedule
Mon.-Tues. Sea Best Invitational Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Feb. 19-21 The Prestige at PGA West LaQuinta, Calif.
March 10-11 General Hackler Championship Myrtle Beach, S.C.
March 18-20 Valspar Collegiate Invitational Palm City, Fla.
April 7-8 Aggie Invitational Bryan, Texas
April 25-29 SEC Championships St. Simons Island, Ga.
May 14-16 NCAA regional TBD
May 25-30 NCAA Championships Stillwater, Okla.