By Beth Ann Baldry
Australia’s Leanne Bowditch and her brother, Steven, will travel decidedly different roads to their American dreams. Steven, 21, spent last fall sleeping in a tent while competing on Australia’s Troppo Tour. A victory Feb. 20 at the Jacob’s Creek Open, however, earned him a ticket onto the Nationwide Tour. He followed that life-altering week with a runner-up showing at the New Zealand PGA.
Leanne doesn’t plan on sleeping under the stars to reach her professional goals. The 17-year-old’s Malibu, Calif., dorm room will suit her just fine for the next 31/2 years. Bowditch arrived at Pepperdine
Jan. 2 and quickly played her way into the Waves’ lineup.
In her college debut, Bowditch closed with a 72 at the Arizona Wildcat Invitational to help the Waves finish fifth. Pepperdine coach Laurie Gibbs didn’t know what to expect from the young Australian. Turns out the maturity Bowditch displays off the course transfers to her game.
“She has the complete package,” Gibbs said. “I have full confidence that she can play pretty much anywhere in the lineup. It’s really kind of an exciting situation.”
An Aussie addition is reason enough for Gibbs to smile. Pepperdine boasted a top-15 ranking with Australian players in the lineup from 1999 to 2003. Four of those Pepperdine standouts, Tamie Durdin (2000), Nadina Taylor (2003), Katherine Hull (2003) and Lindsey Wright (2003), went on to gain LPGA status.
Last season, without a Down Under wonder on the roster for the first time in six years, the Waves fell to No. 26 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. With only five players on last year’s squad, Gibbs wasn’t surprised by the drop in performance.
This season, however, the veteran coach uses words like “depth,” “maturity” and “focused” to describe her team. Rachel Kyono (ranked No. 27), Eileen Vargas (No. 28) and Carolina Llano (No. 32) comprise Pepperdine’s core. Freshman Marina Choi (No. 69) has three top-20 finishes and walk-on Stephanie Gelleni proved a “pleasant surprise.”
Pepperdine made serious waves Feb. 9, topping a loaded field at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge. And that was without Bowditch.
“I’m not afraid to say, ‘Let’s go win,’ ” said Gibbs, whose team is now ranked No. 5. “We really feel like we have a team that can peak at the end.”
After her brother won in Australia, an ecstatic Leanne sent her brother a congraulatory text message that read, “See you in a few weeks.” Neither of them expected their next reunion to be on American soil.
Steven wasn’t overly fond of school and turned pro at age 19. He spent time toiling on the European Challenge Tour before heading back to Australia to play the mini-tours.
“It’s good to see him finally succeed,” Leanne said. “I’m going about it in a complete opposite way. Hopefully one day we’ll be out there together somewhere.”
Until then, no worries.