Lessons from a ‘lifer'
Chuck Winstead brings a lifetime of experience to the game
HUTCHINSON, Kan. -- LSU's longtime head coach Chuck Winstead is what they call a 'lifer' in golf. He's dedicated his life as student and teacher of the game. He's been actively involved in the game nearly his whole life, as a player but, most notably, as a teacher. When he's not on the course with LSU, he's running his long-time golf academy, or contributing mini-lessons for golf publications.
“I've got a lifetime in the game,” he said. “I've had the great blessing to have been around some of the best mind relative to helping people play better.”
His accolades run as long as Australia's Nullabor Links. Winstead's a yearly fixture Golf Magazine's top 100 instructors list, named Louisiana’s top golf instructor by Golf Digest, and he's a senior instruction editor for Golf Tips Magazine. He also helped bring LSU it's first NCAA national title since 1955 when John Peterson brought home the individual's title in 2011.
Winstead's instruction is old school. He uses his decades of experience in teaching and keeps tabs on player's individual statistics to identify strengths and weaknesses. The instruction doesn't start and end with him--he works with players' coaches of past and present, which creates a rounded knowledge of the player's historical imperfections and direction for future instruction.
It's a down-to-the-roots brand of teaching. Winstead gives his golfers the keys to improve their game, and their drive to improve themselves will determine their success. It's just like having a boss at work who tells you what to improve on, then expects you to do it. If you don't, you can't expect good things. This is especially true in the competitive atmosphere of DI golf, where many collegiate golfers dream of a professional career in the sport.
It seems simple, but if it were, his results would be replicated by other coaches.
“I don't know if i have a certain style, so to speak, it's just basics,” he said.
When his alma mater LSU inquired about his services as a head coach in 2005, he knew it was time to take the next step in his career.
“I always thought it would it be fun to work with college-aged guys and helped them achieve their goals,” he said.
In nine years as the head coach at LSU, he's reestablished the program as one of the country's elite. Since he arrived, the team's average score plummeted from 296.7 to this year's average of 288. It's a testament to Winstead's wholesale makeover of the LSU program. The program's drive toward the elite started with his ability to improve that status quo when he arrived, which he used to attract top recruits that are hungry to learn from one of the best, while fostering a culture of work ethic.
“You have to recruit the best players you can and then you have to develop those players,” he said.
But a talented player can't be developed if they're unwilling to develop themselves. His motto for this season was that if you don’t work hard, you don't get to play. This year's starters were determined by the players he saw dedicating the most time to improving themselves for the team collective, he told GolfWeek earlier this month. Winstead doesn't see golfing as something that's ever mastered. Success in golf is life-long journey of learning and adapting, something he's done a lot of at LSU to maintain the program's status of the elite.
“The biggest challenge is that everybody else is good. There's so many good players and coaches and programs out there that its just a challenge to separate yourself and distinguish yourself from all the other programs in the country,” he said. “The biggest huddle is that theres always a lot of competition.”
His motto brought marked improved from last season. The team placed in the top 10 of all 12 tournaments it participated in, and advanced into the NCAA semifinals on Tuesday with its match-play win against UCLA. The team will face-off against Alabama to determine the final spot in the championship round tomorrow.
Winstead credits his successful career to the individual's he's encountered along his journey. The most influential, he said, is Martin Hall.
“Martin is, in my estimation, the best golf instructor on the planet and he's been a mentor to me for years,” he said. “He's someone whose played the largest role in my development [as an instructor].”
“I have been blessed to have been around a lot of very good teachers [in my career],” he said. “Its been very special to try to build that everybody that associated with LSU can be proud of.”