DEVILLE: LSU Golf getting back to its roots

There is no doubt track and field is the most successful sport on the LSU campus.

Between the men's and women's programs, the two have combined for (hold onto your seat) 54 SEC titles and 30 national championships.

 

Needless to say, there is no other program on campus can compete with that kind of success.

 

However, once you get past the track and fields dominance, try and guess which program is second in SEC team championships?

 

(pause)

 

Nope, you're wrong.

 

(pause)

 

Nada, keep trying.

 

(pause)

 

Golf. That's right, golf.

 

Beyond track's plethora of championships, the LSU Tigers Men's Golf team ranks second on the LSU list with 15 SEC titles. That's more than all of the three major sports including baseball (13), football (9) and men's basketball (8).

 

Did you know the men's golf team is third at LSU in total of NCAA national team titles?

 

Heck, neither did I.

 

My parents were small children when LSU last captured the national championship on the links, doing so in 1955. The Tiger claimed national titles in 1940, 42, 47 and 1955, won four straight SEC titles from 1937-40 and again from 1942-48 (no champion was named in 1943, 44 or 45).

 

When one thinks of LSU golf, the name David Toms comes to mind. An all-American in 1986 and now rated in the top 10 in the world on the PGA Tour, Toms is arguably the most notable LSU alum. A diehard Tiger supporter, Toms has been spotted everywhere from the sideline in Tiger Stadium to sitting courtside at an LSU volleyball match.

 

Toms, the 1987 SEC Individual Champion, led the Tigers to back to back conference championships in 1986 and 87 before turning pro in 1989. Currently ranked 7th in the world, Toms has claimed over $25 million in prize money on tour, won the 2001 PGA Championship and is one of the most recognizable players anywhere.

 

Toms' affiliation with LSU has carried over to the course and brought notoriety to LSU through his success on the course. He has helped provide the Tiger golf teams, both men and women, with some of the best facilities in the nation (as you will read about later in this issue) and has given back to the community through the David Toms Foundation, a non-profit organization which helps underprivileged children.

 

While Toms is the torch bearer of the LSU program, the history of the Tiger program dates back decades before the Shreveport native ever swung his first 9-iron.

 

Ever heard of Fred Haas Jr.? How about Henry Castillo? Not even Tommie Mudd?

 

The first great golfer at LSU was Haas, who captured the 1937 NCAA Individual championship. He went on to star on the PGA Tour and later on the Senior Tour.

 

Castillo followed Haas winning the 1941 national championship. Mudd shot the lowest round in program history, a 63 at Sherwood Forest Country Club in 1985.

 

The storied history of the program has long since been forgotten, but with a new coach and a new attitude, the LSU program looks to be on the rise.

 

Former Tiger golfer Chuck Winstead is in his first year at LSU. Replacing Greg Jones, who left LSU after six seasons, Winstead is hoping to restore the program back to its rightful place at the top of the SEC.

 

"The program has been successful in the past, albeit, a while," Winstead said. "We have a great record, but none of it is recent. I think we have 38 all-Americans. We are second in the SEC in team championships with 15. We have four national titles."

 

Noted as one of the top 100 golf instructors in the country, Winstead brings a wealth of golf knowledge and a deep love of the LSU to head of the Tiger Golf program. In an effort to resurrect the program back to elite status, Winstead wants to remind the players and fans alike where this program has been and where he wants to take it now.

 

"When I put the media guide together this year, I put all of that out front," Winstead said. "We have to sell the idea that we were where we were and we can go back there."

 

A native of Ruston, La., Winstead's golf career started in Baton Rouge at LSU, where he was a letterman on the 1991 team.

 

"I played here. I am from Louisiana and would certainly like the program to head back in the direction that it was," Winstead said.

 

The direction of which Winstead speaks is at the top of the NCAA. If this rookie coach's passion and credentials have anything to do with the success of this team, there is no doubt LSU will again find itself among the elite squads in all of college golf.

 

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Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.


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