Karen Bahnsen
Position: Head Coach
Hometown: Mobile, Ala.
High School: McGill-Toolen HS
Alma Mater: LSU
Graduating Year: 1984
Experience: 32 Years
Bahnsen Videos
Karen Bahnsen Bio
Courtesy: (@LSUsports)
Release: 03/24/2016

32nd Season

It is so easy even after all these years to know when the women’s college golf team is about to return to campus and another season is set to begin.

The eyes of the coach brighten with anticipation. The pace quickens and the hope of a successful season looms again.

Even entering her 32nd season, the coach who has seen it all when it comes to women’s golf at LSU still has that passion and anticipation. Karen Bahnsen knows another opportunity waits on the national golf scene, a place where LSU has regularly had a place at the table of top teams.

She has seen seasons come and seasons go as she traveled a journey as a member of the LSU’s women’s golf team and then as the head coach of her alma mater.

Bahnsen is in many ways a historian for the sport of college golf, especially at LSU and the Southeastern Conference. She has seen the sport improve in so many ways with better equipment, better scores and better players. She has now seen the sport she loves advance into the television age as the Golf Channel documents the women’s final and its new match play championships.

The dean of SEC coaches and a Women’s Golf Coaches Association Hall of Famer continues to get the job done for her program and her University each and every year. She is driven to succeed and has the beliefs and values that reach her players and gives them the chance to be successful as well.

Over the course of 31 successful years as head coach, it’s not just wins and losses that matter. It is grade point average as well as greens in regulation. It is graduation day as well as tournament championships. It’s the big picture of preparing for the future whether that is as a business woman, a woman raising a family and if the chance to play professionally arises, then the LSU Lady Tigers are prepared for that as well.

As the program enters its 37th season, it’s easy to see how far this program has come – from visiting the campus book store to get matching shirts for the first tournament to back-to-back third place team finishes in the NCAA Championships.

She was the first recruit of a program that LSU started in the fall of 1979 that has under the tutelage of Bahnsen contributed her share of great stars in her years as head coach:

  • Jenny Lidback – the nation’s No. 1 player in 1986, who won seven tournaments in one season. She went on to win an LPGA Major and is the first women’s golfer in the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame.
  • Jackie Gallagher-Smith – played for LSU in the 1980s that produced a long and steady career on the LPGA Tour, including an LPGA victory.
  • Three Amigas – Ashley Winn, Michelle Louviere, Laura Moore – 1995-98, led LSU to a succession of NCAA appearances (including a fifth place finish in 1998), a No. 1 ranking and nine tournament titles.
  • Katy Wilkinson Harris – Had All-American bookend performances in her freshman and senior years and has come out of retirement in the last two years to win on the Symetra Tour and play on the LPGA tour.
  • Meredith Duncan – Won three major amateur titles in 2001 including the USGA Women’s Amateur title … Member of the Curtis Cup team and winner of the Dinah Shore Award from LPGA.
  • Lisette Lee – Also winner on the Diana Shore Award from LPGA.
  • Megan McChrystal – Five-time champion in college with three A-A citations … Set LSU records for single season and career stroke average … Symetra Tour winner, member LPGA Tour.
  • Austin Ernst – Winner of the 2011 NCAA Championship … Two-time All-American … Semifinalist 2011 USGA Women’s Amateur and LPGA Tour.
  • Tessa Teachman – Part of two NCAA third place teams with a third place individual finish. Reality star on Golf Channel’s Big Break.
  • Madelen Sagastrom -- 2015 SEC Player of the Year, runnerup for the ANNIKA Award. First-Team All-America, Three-time First Team All-SEC.

It was 2011 and 2012 that the Lady Tigers brought home third place hardware from the NCAA team championships. The Tigers have advanced to that championship round 13 times, 12 under Coach Bahnsen.

Now in the 2015-16 season, the Lady Tigers have a group of returnees and some talent newcomers that are trying to blend together to advance again to NCAA play despite some injuries to players like returning All-American Caroline Nistrup.

To Coach Bahnsen, it seems like only yesterday when Buddy Alexander, who was handling both the men’s and women’s golf teams at LSU, elected to hand her the keys to the LSU women’s golf program prior to the 1984-85 season. The enthusiasm and competitive spirit that Bahnsen showed people like Alexander as a player is the same enthusiasm and competitive spirit that is evident as a coach.

She has had the drive, the determination and the willingness to succeed ever since those playing days. Bahnsen knows what it takes to get to the pinnacle of women’s collegiate golf – the NCAA Women’s Championship Tournament. She will ask her team to work hard and respond to the challenge, but it was be nothing less than she ever asked of herself as a player.

Now the message is being spread farther thanks to those who have worked and played for her. Two former assistants – Marci Kornegay (South Florida) and Golda Borst (Kentucky) are now head coaches. Ashley (Winn) Tonore, who played for Bahnsen in 1995-98, served for several years as the Director of Golf and head women’s coach at ULM. Former player Alexis Rather has also joined the coaching fraternity in her seventh year as an assistant and her fifth at LSU.

Over the years Bahnsen has come up with a simple philosophy that she started using as a player. It’s so simple, but so amazingly effective when put into play. She wants her team to play each shot as a separate event. If something bad happens, forget it and move on. Don’t let it carry on for four or five holes. Most of all have fun.

Bahnsen’s love and desire for a program she has devoted over half her life to is what also gives her a smiling satisfaction about a program she has virtually helped design from scratch. She is more energized than ever to make the program a continuing contender in the national spotlight.

How many programs are there in any sports in Division I intercollegiate athletics where the program’s first recruit goes on to become the head coach of the program and stays long enough to not the dean of league coaches in the sport, but also one of the longest tenured coaches in school history? She is one of the most respected individuals in the game today, not just in the SEC but all college golf circles.

The numbers easily show her success:
23 All-Americans
50 All-SEC
39 Team Tournament Titles
32 Individual Tournament Titles
11 Top 3 Finishes in the SEC Championships
21 appearances in the NCAA Regionals
12 appearances in the NCAA Championships
7 top 10 finishes in the NCAA Championships (2 thirds)

How about some off-the-course numbers:
94 SEC Academic Honor Roll Selections
31 Women’s Golf Coaches Association Academic Scholars

In 2010, Bahnsen’s golf team was recognized as just one of three teams at LSU to earn an NCAA Public Recognition Award for exceptional work in this classroom. The awards are given annually to teams scoring in the top 10 percent in each sport with their Academic Progress Rate (APR).

She knows that nothing on the LPGA or the Symetra tours is guaranteed for any golfer. She knows what it is like to have a husband, a family and the need to divide time between the coaching job and the family time. Her values on balancing both are what makes her a special person and a coach that players want to play for.

Every year has brought new challenges and every time Bahnsen has answered that call. Every year, the desire to succeed is that much greater and that is what seems to continue to light the fire of the lady who knows LSU golf inside and outside, backwards and forwards.

Bahnsen came to LSU with credentials that were excellent, lettering in golf at McGill-Toolen High School in Mobile, Ala. She led the school to two state titles and in 1979 won the state individual championship and the National High School Tournament. Her mother was an LPGA teaching professional, a four-time Alabama state women’s champion, and a Mobile Sports Hall of Fame inductee.

This past year mother and daugher were united again as Karen Bahnsen was honored as an inductee into the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame.

Bahnsen is married to LSU Senior Associate Athletic Director David “Bo” Bahnsen. They have two children, son Darren (27, an LSU graduate, a former member of state championship golf and basketball teams at University High in Baton Rouge) and daughter, Devin, 24.

Date of Birth: Oct. 11, 1960
Husband: David “Bo” Bahnsen, LSU Sr. Associate AD
Children: Darren 27, Devin 24
High School: McGill Toolen, Mobile, Ala.
College: BA, LSU, 1984

1979 -- High School All-American; National High School Champion
1980-83 -- Four-year letter winner at LSU, first golf signee; AIAW Tournament participant, 1980-81; NCAA Tournament participant, 1982
1986 -- SEC Coach of the Year; NGCA South Region Coach of the Year; Team finished ninth at the NCAA Division I Championships
1992 -- Team won Southeastern Conference Championship Tournament
1994 -- Member, La. Team, SE Women's Amateur Championships
1995 -- Member, La. Team, SEC Women's Amateur Championships; SEC Coach of the Year; Winning Co-Coach, East-West All-Star NCAA Match
1996 -- Team finished eighth at the NCAA Division I Championships
1997 -- NGCA South Region Coach of the Year
1998 -- Team finished fifth at the NCAA Division I Championships
1999 -- Team finished 10th at the NCAA Division I Championships
2000 -- Team finished 10th at the NCAA Division I Championships
2001 -- Team finished 12th at the NCAA Division I Championships
2006 -- Team finished 23rd at the NCAA Division I Championships; LSWA Louisiana Women's Golf Coach of the Year
2007 -- LSWA Louisiana Women's Golf Coach of the Year
2008 -- Team finished 15th at the NCAA Division I Championships; LSWA Louisiana Women's Golf Coach of the Year; Inducted into NGCA Hall of Fame
2009 -- Team finished 12th at the NCAA Division I Championships
2011 -- Team finished 3rd at the NCAA Division I Championships; LSWA Louisiana Women's Golf Coach of the Year
2012 -- Team finished 3rd at the NCAA Division 1 Championships; LSWA Louisiana Women's Golf Coach of the Year.
2015 Team finished 20th at the NCAA Division I Championships; Inducted Mobile Sports Hall of Fame; LSWA Louisiana Women’s Golf Coach of the Year.

Bahnsen's Year-by-Year Coaching Record

Year Won Lost Tied Pct. Team Titles Notes
1984-85 60 80 1 .441 1  
1985-86 131 15 0 .897 5 9th in NCAA Championships
1986-87 67 45 0 .598 1  
1987-88 94 49 1 .653 1  
1988-89 55 60 3 .479 0  
1989-90 86 39 4 .682 1  
1990-91 98 28 1 .772 2  
1991-92 73 50 0 .593 2 SEC Champions
1992-93 55 80 0 .407 0 NCAA Regional Participant
1993-94 61 65 1 .480 1  
1994-95 89 59 2 .593 2 NCAA Regional Participant
1995-96 138 33 1 .805 3 8th in NCAA Championships
1996-97 120 31 0 .795 3 NCAA Regional Participant
1997-98 137 34 3 .796 1 5th in NCAA Championships
1998-99 110 62 0 .639 0 10th in NCAA Championships
1999-2000 129 38 0 .772 1 10th in NCAA Championships
2000-01 110 50 4 .683 1 12th in NCAA Championships
2001-02 89 67 1 .587 0 NCAA Regional Participant
2002-03 24 95 3 .209 0  
2003-04 98 37 2 .715 1 NCAA Regional Participant
2004-05 118 32 2 .776 2 NCAA Regional Participant
2005-06 91 77 0 .542 0 23rd in NCAA Championships
2006-07 87 83 3 .511 0 NCAA Regional Participant
2007-08 119 81 0 .595 0 15th in NCAA Championships
2008-09 149 41 0 .784 2 12th in NCAA Championships
2009-10 104 62 3 .624 1 NCAA Regional Participant
2010-11 153 45 1 .771 1 3rd in NCAA Championships
2011-12 147 47 0 .758 4 3rd in NCAA Championships
2012-13 89 74 5 .545 0 NCAA Regional Participant
2013-14 101 58 2 .634 0 NCAA Regional Participant
2014-15 126 47 0 .728 3 20th in NCAA Championships
Totals 3004 1647 43 .644 39 12 NCAA Appearances; 21 NCAA Regional Appearances
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