Pepperdine coach Laurie Gibbs struck Australian gold six years ago when she landed Katherine Hull and Lindsey Wright. The Waves peaked in 2003 when the Down Under duo led Pepperdine to five consecutive titles in the spring and a runner-up finish at the NCAA Division I Championship.
Many felt Gibbs’ moment in the sun would fade when Hull and Wright graduated to the LPGA. Indeed, Pepperdine struggled in 2004, failing to advance to the NCAA finals and closing out the year 26th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
But Gibbs quickly reloaded in Malibu, making a significant run at this year’s national championship and closing the season ranked fourth. A number of coaches around the country deserve credit for a first-class season, but Pepperdine’s tenacious turnaround in 2005 cannot be ignored, making Gibbs Golfweek’s Coach of the Year. Arizona State’s Louise Stahle, by virtue of her No. 1 ranking, is Golfweek’s Player of the Year.
“They worked hard, got along well and just really meshed together,” Gibbs said. “This year it was really sad to see it all come to an end.”
The Waves entered the preseason ranked 18th, but didn’t finish outside the top 5 in 10 events.
In the spring, Pepperdine won the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge and its seventh West Coast Conference Championship. While in Sunriver, Ore., at the NCAAs, Gibbs’ team shared the midway lead with Auburn before falling to fourth.
Junior Carolina Llano led the Waves this season with nine top-15 finishes, but received plenty of help from classmate Eileen Vargas. In the spring, freshman Leanne Bowditch acted as Gibbs’ “missing puzzle piece.” Continuing Australian tradition, Bowditch made an immediate impact with a 74.87 stroke average.
In 12 seasons at Pepperdine, Gibbs has led the Waves to six top-15 showings at the NCAA Championship and 20 team titles.
Pepperdine’s future looks rosy with six returners and a promising recruit in Jayvie Agojo of the Philippines, but college golf won’t be seeing its top-ranked player next season.
Arizona State’s Stahle stormed onto the scene last fall with three consecutive runner-up showings. The Swede broke through in the spring, collecting titles at the Wildcat Invitational, Ping/ASU Invitational and Pac-10 Championship. She added a second-place finish at the NCAA Central Regional, her fourth runner-up of the year.
It all added up to a No. 1 ranking and the NGCA Player of the Year honors. Stahle assured that she’d go out on top when the Sun Devil announced she’d be leaving Tempe after one season.
“I am pretty satisfied with my performance, I had three victories and four runner-ups,” Stahle said. “I am ready to go now, it’s been great.”
Stahle, who won her second consecutive Ladies British Amateur June 11, plans to turn professional after representing her country at the European Team Championship in July.