Australians Katherine Hull and Lindsey Wright can thank Pepperdine University for bringing them together nearly three years ago. If it wasn’t for the small Christian school that sits off the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, Calif., the two seniors likely would not be friends.
But Hull and Wright, who enter the season ranked Nos. 2 and 5, respectively, by Golfweek, have done more to repay Pepperdine coach Laurie Gibbs than she could ever imagine. The duo enter this season as the best 1-2 combination in the country, giving Pepperdine a legitimate opportunity for a national championship.
“Words don’t describe how excited I am for this year,” Hull said. “It would be great to win a national championship my senior year. That would be a great way to cap it all off.”
Hull, 20, had a slightly better season last year than Wright, winning twice and finishing in the top 5 eight times. Her stroke average was 72.19, nearly a full shot better than Wright, who finished no worse than fifth in her final five events, including a tie for second at the NCAA Championship.
Wright, 22, has had the more successful summer. She made it to the final of the Ladies British Amateur, and also advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur last month, losing to eventual champion Becky Lucidi.
“They are both very competitive and are not afraid of hard work,” Gibbs said. “They are very tenacious and stick to what they need to do.”
Aside from their impressive golf skills, the only clear similarity is their major: Sports administration. Both are on schedule to graduate next spring in only 31⁄2 years.
That’s where the similarities end.
For starters, Wright is “two-and-a-bit years older,” Hull said, and they did not know each other well in Australia, only playing together in one junior tournament.
Wright was born in England and lived there until she was 10. Her family moved to Albury, Australia, because her father wasn’t fond of Great Britain’s weather and felt he could provide a better life for his family. After living there for six months, Wright got hooked on golf and quickly developed into a solid player.
“I will consider myself Australian in golf forever, because that’s how I started,” said Wright, who has duel citizenship in England and Australia and has a distinct Australian accent. “They wouldn’t let me on courses in England, and they did in Australia.”
After high school, Wright received a two-year golf scholarship to attend the Australian Institute of Sport in Melbourne. The experience showed Wright she wasn’t quite ready to turn professional and prompted her to look for college opportunities in the United States.
She e-mailed 50 coaches in March 1999 telling them of her intentions to land a college scholarship. Originally, Wright wanted to attend a larger university, but Gibbs was the first to make contact and never gave up pursuing her.
“She (Gibbs) was the only one who really stuck it out with me,” Wright said. “I’m glad I went there. If I would have gone to a party school, who knows what happens. Pepperdine has kept me more focused. There is no way I could go to any other university.”
Hull got her start in golf at age 12 when she became burned out as a tennis player in Brisbane, Australia. After two years, Hull already knew she wanted to come to the United States, attend college and turn professional.
While in high school, many extracurricular activities – including being student body president as a senior – limited Hull’s golf. But she still wrote letters to 10 warm-weather universities (six in California, two in Arizona and two in Florida) about her aspirations. While playing in the 1999 Junior World in San Diego – her first visit to the States – Hull visited the Pepperdine campus and knew immediately it was the place for her.
Two different routes have led Hull and Wright to the same path, gunning for the same goal: a national championship.
All has not been perfect, however, for the dynamic duo.
Hull and Wright, who will represent Australia in the World Amateur Team Championship in October, admit to an occasional disagreement, but say it’s primarily because they spend so much time together and their personalities sometimes clash. Hull is outgoing and carefree in her personal life and emotional on the golf course. Wright appears more reserved on and off the course. But once you get to know Wright, her fun, laid-back personality shines through.
“I think we’re both better people and better players for the experiences that we’ve had together,” Hull said.
Said Wright, “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs but it’s awesome having Katherine there. We have conflicts, but every normal friendship does.”
But the two remain close. After Hull was ousted by Aree Song Wongluekiet in the second round at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, she remained at Sleepy Hollow to lend Wright her support.
If the pair continues to support each other – and their Pepperdine teammates – the NCAA Championship trophy might reach California for the first time since 1992.