A Men's Golf Title 60 Years in the Making
Nearly 60 years ago – on Tuesday, June 21, 1955 – four members of the LSU men’s golf team played two rounds of qualifying at Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tenn. The top 64 in these two rounds would advance to individual match play — and the team champion was declared but relegated to somewhat of a subplot in the AP recap.
Led by Johnny Pott – medalist in these two “qualifying” rounds for the individual match play bracket – LSU won the 1955 title with a total of 574, nine strokes better than runner-up North Texas State. Jim Mangum (145), Scotty Fraser (146) and Cecil Calhoun (147) were also part of the Tigers’ most recent NCAA Championship squad.
That fact changed on Wednesday, June 3, 2015, when coach Chuck Winstead‘s Tigers beat Southern Cal in the Tigers’ seventh round of team golf in six days. And, the headlines were much bigger.
These five modern-day Tigers – Stewart Jolly, Brandon Pierce, Eric Ricard, Ben Taylor and Zach Wright – withstood four rounds of stroke play on the 7,484-yard Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida, and then three rounds of team match play to claim the fifth national championship in program history.
Seventh after four rounds of stroke play, the 2015 Tigers defeated SEC rivals Vanderbilt and Georgia by margins of 3.5 to 1.5 in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds Tuesday before beating USC, 4-1, on Wednesday.
Taylor scored the deciding point by rolling in a nine-foot par putt at the par-four 18th hole to claim a 1-up victory over USC’s Bobby Gojuangco and clinch the title. With Wright and Pierce in the clubhouse with wins, Taylor made it 3-for-3 for the Tigers by coming from behind on the back 9 to win. Pierce scored a 2&1 win over Rico Hoey, while Wright followed with a 3&2 victory over Sean Crocker to push LSU’s advantage to 2-0 as Taylor played the 18th.
With Ricard defeating USC’s Jonah Texeira, 1-up, and Jolly going 1-down to Eric Sugimoto, the Tigers were crowned national champions.
The NCAA has awarded team championship in men’s golf since 1897, and the Tigers broke the longest stretch between team titles in history.
Needless to say, the impact and media attention of the national championship in 2015 has been much stronger than 1955. And, the impact on the LSU golf program will be felt for years to come.
Did You Know:
In 1955, LSU head coach Mike Barbato had qualified for the U.S. Open held at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. Though Barbato withdrew after shooting 46 on his first 9 on Thursday, he was not able to return to Baton Rouge in time to travel with the Tigers to Knoxville. Longtime athletic trainer and LSU Athletic Hall of Fame member Dr. Marty Boussard accompanied the team and brought home the title.
Read the Associated Press’ 1955 NCAA Men’s Golf Championship recap (verbatim):
Tuesday, June 21, 1955
Associated Press (published on June 22)
Potts Ties Record in Qualifying
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The first round of match play in the National Collegiate (NCAA) Golf Tournament got under way here today with Louisiana State University already loaded with honors.
First out was LSU sophomore Johnny Pott, medalist, who tied the NCAA record yesterday with a 36-hole qualifying total of 136. Yesterday’s 34-33 – 67 was coupled with Monday’s 69 for an eight-under-par total.
He is paired with Bob Goetz, Oklahoma A&M, who qualified with a 74-74 — 148.
LSU Team Champions
LSU took the team championship yesterday with a low aggregate score of 574. Other members of the championship team are Jim Mangum, 145, Scotty Fraser, 146, and Cecil Calhoun, 147.
Pott, who yesterday tied the mark set by Don Albert of Purdue last year in Houston, is former Mississippi Junior champ, was runner-up in this year’s Southeastern Conference tournament and low amateur in the Baton Rouge, La., Open. He won the Mississippi Junior title in 1953.
Defending champion Southern Methodist rated only an eighth-place tie with Purdue with an aggregate 599 although it returned with last year’s team intact. North Texas State, 583, was second followed by Oklahoma A&M, 588, and Stanford and Hosuton, each 591.
Defending champion Huillman Robbins of Memphis State was fifth out today, pair with Chuck Briggs of Seattle. Robbins turned in a second day of steady qualifying yesterday for a total 71-70 – 141. Briggs qualified with 75-74 — 149.
The 58 collegians who finished with scores of 150 or better qualified for the championship flight. Fifteen others, tied with 151s, meet today in a sudden-death playoff for the six remaining berths. Match play begins immediately thereafter.
|June 22, 1955, Associated Press||June 4, 2015 Baton Rouge Advocate Sports|