Head Coach – 12th Season
June 3, 2015, is a day that will live long in the memory of the LSU Tigers.
It was on that day at Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida, when head coach Chuck Winstead and the Tigers lifted the national championship trophy for the fifth time in school history and the first time in 60 years. With a 4-1 defeat of the USC Trojans in the NCAA Championship Match, the Tigers capped a historic run at the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships and returned to the top of college golf.
The Tigers had a taste of the title a season before in 2014 while reaching the Final Four of match play for the first time. They finished the job a year later when five All-Americans took down SEC rivals Vanderbilt and Georgia in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds before taming the Trojans in the finals in one of the most comprehensive victories in NCAA Championship Match history.
The Tigers earned the No. 7 seed in match play after finishing stroke-play qualifying with a score of 17-over par in four rounds at Concession Golf Club.
Seniors Stewart Jolly and Ben Taylor, both All-Americans following LSU’s Final Four run in 2014, joined junior Zach Wright and sophomores Brandon Pierce and Eric Ricard in winning LSU’s first national championship since 1955 and a fifth for a program that also claimed titles back in 1940, 1942 and 1947.
Pierce and Wright both capped an All-American 2015 spring season by tying for 11th place on the NCAA Championship leaderboard with even-par scores of 288 to lead the Tigers back into match play for the second year in a row.
Pierce, who broke David Toms’ single-season scoring record of 71.26 from 1988-89 with a career best 71.16 as the team’s leading scorer in 2014-15, was named a Golfweek Third-Team All-American and PING Honorable Mention All-American by the Golf Coaches Association of America following his breakout sophomore season. Wright and Ricard scored PING Honorable Mention All-American accolades of their own in the wake of LSU’s national championship victory.
In fact, Pierce (71.16), Wright (72.03) and Ricard (72.11) all smashed career-low scoring averages by an average of 2.53 strokes per round to establish themselves among the elite players in college golf in the 2014-15 season. Each also picked up his first career All-SEC award with second-team selections along with Jolly, who ended his collegiate career as a two-time All-SEC performer.
The Tigers were also crowned SEC Champions for the first time in 28 years and the 16th time in their history when they scored a three-stroke victory over Vanderbilt and South Carolina at the 2015 SEC Championships returning to Sea Island Golf Club’s Seaside Course in St. Simons Island, Georgia. A season after finishing second to Alabama in the final team standings, the Tigers took down the Tide with a score of 13-under par 827 to win their first conference title since the 1987 spring season.
While winning regular-season titles at the Golfweek Conference Challenge (Sept. 14-16), David Toms Intercollegiate (Oct. 4-5) and Talis Park Challenge (March 15-16), the Tigers equaled a team record with five tournament wins a year ago that they last achieved during the 1959-60 campaign.
2014-15 was a season 10 years in the making as Winstead – the SEC Coach of the Year and Golfweek National Coach of the Year that season – has been the architect of LSU’s return to the nation’s elite. The foundation Winstead has laid since his appointment in the summer of 2005 will have the Tigers competing for SEC and NCAA championships for years to come.
They nearly defended their national championship a year ago while returning to the Match Play Eight for the third year in a row as quarterfinalists at the 2016 NCAA Championships held at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club. That’s where Sam Burns and Luis Gagne capped their debut season as All-Americans by tying for 13th place nationally as the top Tigers in the NCAA field.
Winstead has led a program that has produced 16 All-American selections, 10 All-SEC performers with 17 all-conference honors, two Academic All-Americans and 17 individual tournament champions in his tenure. The Tigers have also competed in nine-straight NCAA Regionals from 2008-16 while claiming a spot in the NCAA Championships in six of the last seven seasons in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Winstead is the winningest coach in the program’s history with 25 tournament championships in his 11 years as head coach. Ten Tigers have also captured 17 medalist honors since Winstead’s first season as head coach in 2005-06.
LSU’s rise to the top of college golf was first felt at the 2011 NCAA Championships when John Peterson claimed the program’s first individual championship in 70 years with his winning performance at Oklahoma State’s Karsten Creek Golf Club. That’s when the former three-time All-American and emerging PGA TOUR standout fired a 5-under par 211 for three rounds of stroke play to win the national title and join former Tiger champions Fred Haas, Jr. (1937) and Earl Stewart (1941).
Peterson had a strong start to his professional career that included a tie for fourth place in his major championship debut at the 2012 United States Open Championship held at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, California, and making the cut in his Masters debut in 2013. Peterson will compete as a card-carrying member of the PGA TOUR again in 2016-17 while earning more than $2 million since turning professional following his senior season in 2011.
Andrew Loupe, a two-time All-American and teammate of Peterson while at LSU, will also compete as a fully-exempt member in the PGA TOUR during the 2016-17 season as he retained his TOUR card thanks to his performance this past season. Loupe, who became the second former LSU Tiger to win a Web.com Tour event title in 2015 with his victory at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, has earned six career top-10 finishes on the PGA TOUR while approaching $2 million in career earnings.
Another former student under Winstead’s teaching at LSU is also off to a flying start in his PGA TOUR career as Smylie Kaufman is already an emerging star after wrapping up his rookie season in 2015-16 with more than $2.5 million in earnings on the year. Kaufman’s rookie season was highlighted by his first career victory at the 2015 Shriners Hospital for Children Open in just his fifth career PGA TOUR start along with four top-10 and 10 top-25 finishes.
Kaufman, a former PING All-Southeast Region performer and member of LSU’s 2014 Final Four team while in Baton Rouge, is a two-time professional winner after also claiming his first career Web.com Tour victory at the United Leasing Championship in May 2015.
Winstead’s reputation as one of the top golf teachers in the country has been reflected in LSU’s performance on the course over the past 10 seasons as the team’s scoring average has dropped dramatically since his first season as head coach in 2005-06. After averaging 295.6 shots per round as a team during his inaugural season, the Tigers lowered their scoring average each season at 296.7 in 2006-07, 293.6 in 2007-08, 293.4 in 2008-09, 290.6 in 2009-10 and 290.5 in 2010-11. LSU’s team averaged was even more impressive the last three years at 287.3 in 2013-14, 285.8 in 2014-15 and 286.9 in 2015-16.
His instructional skills have been recognized by many of the leading golf publications nationally throughout his career, including the honor of being selected as a Golf Magazine Top 100 Instructor in America since 2005.
Golf Digest has also recognized Winstead’s instructional prowess as one of the nation’s top golf teachers. He has appeared on Golf Channel, most recently as a featured guest on “School of Golf” with Martin Hall, and has also contributed to various golf publications including GOLF Magazine and GolfTips.
While the Tigers have excelled on the course, LSU’s student-athletes have also achieved great success in the classroom with a total of 62 selections to the SEC Academic Honor Roll during Winstead’s tenure as head coach. In 2011, two Tigers were chosen as Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholars as standouts Austin Gutgsell and Sang Yi were recognized for their academic performance.
In support of this effort, Winstead provided the vision and oversight for a multi-million dollar renovation project to The University Club golf course and LSU’s Bilyeu Golf Practice Facility in 2010. The course is now recognized as one of the best in the country and will host an NCAA Men’s Golf Regional in 2017 after already hosting the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional in May 2013.
Winstead's credentials include an association with Jack Nicklaus' Golden Bear Golf, Inc., in North Palm Beach, Florida, in the mid-to-late 1990s where he served as part of the senior management team developing, managing and initiating the launch of Golden Bear Golf Centers worldwide.
Winstead has been linked with The University Club since 2000 where he has served as the Director of Instruction and owner of the Chuck Winstead Golf Academy. Winstead was named a Director of Instruction at English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans from 1998-2000. In addition, he was a head instructor for the Bob Toski Learning Center in Sunrise, Florida, from 1993-95.
After graduating from LSU in 1991, Winstead embarked on a career as a professional golfer with a stint on the South American tour before launching his teaching career.
He and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents of two sons – Trey, 18, and David, 15 – and are active members of First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge.