No. 23 Men's Golf Set for SEC Championships

by Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
Winstead Looks Ahead to SEC Championships +0
No. 23 Men's Golf Set for SEC Championships

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following Thursday’s practice round at the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club, the 23rd-ranked LSU men’s golf team will tee off in the 2010 Southeastern Conference Men’s Golf Championships on Friday morning as tee times are scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. CT.

The SEC Championships return to the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club for the first time since the 2007 season after being held at nearby Frederica Golf Club in each of the past two seasons.

St. Simons Island has been the home of the SEC Men’s Golf Championships for the past nine seasons as it was first held at the Seaside Course during the spring of 2001.

“This is clearly a strong conference. That goes without saying. We feel like this championship is going to be decided on the greens and around the greens as opposed to off the tee at the Seaside Course,” said LSU head coach Chuck Winstead. “When we play in the conference championship this year, our guys can play with anybody. Our guys will carry that confidence with them when they play this weekend.

“We’re very much looking forward to it. I know the guys are very much looking forward to it. We all feel like if we just play well that we can contend for the team title.”

After firing the lowest team score of last year’s tournament with a 11-under par 277 in the final round, the Tigers finished in a tie for fourth place in the final team standings with a 54-hole score of 8-over 872 with the event being held at Frederica Golf Club. It marked LSU’s best finish in the SEC Championships since 2002 when it finished in sole possession of fourth place overall.

The Georgia Bulldogs enter the weekend as the defending SEC champions after capturing their 25th team title with a winning score of 15-under 849. The Arkansas Razorbacks finished in a distant second place at 2-under 862, while the Florida Gators earned a third-place finish with a score of 1-over 865.

Former Florida All-American Billy Horschel won the individual SEC championship by two strokes with a 54-hole score of 10-under 206 at the par-72 layout.

LSU is one of five programs that will tee it up this weekend ranked among the Top 25 teams in the nation in the latest Golf World/Nike Golf Coaches’ Top 25 poll. The Tigers are joined by No. 13 Florida, No. 15 Alabama, No. 17 South Carolina and No. 21 Georgia in this year’s tournament field.

The Tigers will play alongside Georgia and Ole Miss in Friday’s first round and will tee off from the back nine beginning at 7:50 a.m. CT. Live scoring of the event can be found online at www.golfstat.com.

LSU enters the weekend as one of the hottest teams in the SEC with three tournament titles to its credit on the season, marking the second-straight season in which the Tigers have won three team championships. Their most recent victory came at the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate on March 30 when they fired the winning score of 7-under 845 at Bulls Bay Golf Club in Awendaw, S.C.

LSU has also won team titles at the David Toms Intercollegiate at the Country Club of Louisiana in Baton Rouge on Oct. 27 and the Louisiana Classics at Oakbourne Country Club in Lafayette on March 9.

Winstead has elected to play with the same five-man starting lineup that brought home the team victory at the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate just two weeks ago.

Juniors Andrew Loupe and John Peterson are sure to lead the way for the Tigers as they make their return to the SEC Championships for the third year in a row, while sophomores Josh Jones and Sang Yi are set to make their second start and sophomore Austin Gutgsell is scheduled to make his debut in the event.

Loupe continues to show the form that has made him an All-America candidate this season as he will kick off the championship as the No. 56-ranked golfer in the country according to the Golfweek rankings.

The Baton Rouge native leads the team with three top-five, four top-10 and six top-20 finishes on the year while posting a team-leading 72.4 scoring average in 29 rounds this season. He hopes to improve upon his finish in last year’s SEC Championships when he tied for 21st place overall and solidify his position as an All-SEC and All-America candidate heading into the postseason this spring.

Peterson is actually the top returning finisher to this year’s championship as he finished in sole possession of third place on the leaderboard a year ago while firing a 6-under 210 for 54 holes en route to earning his first career First-Team All-SEC selection and Second-Team All-America honor.

Peterson is currently ranked No. 77 nationally in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index of the nation’s top college players as he has earned two top-five, two top-10 and four top-20 finishes this season.

“We played at Frederica the past two years, which was a big advantage for us. It’s much wider off the tee and has very large greens. We have a team that’s very long,” Winstead said. “Andrew Loupe, Josh Jones and those guys hit the ball extremely far, and we feel like playing on a bigger golf course gives us a bit of an advantage. We shot the low round of the tournament there finishing up last year.

“The Seaside Course is a tremendous golf course, but it doesn’t have the length. It’s more demanding off the tee relative to accuracy. The conference championship should be determined on the greens and around the greens on this kind of golf course. That’s what we expect to see this weekend.”

The three-day, 54-hole SEC Men’s Golf Championships will continue with the second round on Saturday and the final round on Sunday. The 2010 conference team and individual champions will be crowned in a brief awards ceremony following Sunday’s final round.