WOLCOTT, Colo. – When Pepperdine players do something well on the golf course, when they see a teammate watching from the previous tee or when they pass each other on adjacent holes, both arms fly overhead to form a heart. There were many reasons for that universal sign of love on Tuesday at Red Sky Golf Club. Pepperdine leads by 22 at the Golfweek Women’s Conference Challenge.
Around the Pepperdine athletic department, a slogan has emerged: Play with purpose. Officially five days into their competitive season, the women’s golf team epitomizes that. Head coach Laurie Gibbs ushered her players onto a plane in Albuquerque, N.M., on Saturday after the Waves won the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational. They played a practice round on Sunday in cold, driving rain, then started the title defense at Red Sky on Monday. So far, no team has come close to reaching them.
Pepperdine outplayed every other team by at least seven shots Tuesday, despite tricky pin placements. The Waves posted 8-over 296 in Round 2 and stand at 9-over 585. UC Davis, second overall, is at 31-over 607 after a 15-over 303 in the second round. East Tennessee State is two shots behind UC Davis, and the leaderboard drops off a little after that.
The Waves’ team score could have been even better on Tuesday. Pepperdine went out in 8 under, but dropped shots on the trickier back nine.
“The front nine, we were holding it together really well,” Gibbs said.
Sophomore Marissa Chow doubled Nos. 10 and 11, and senior Grace Na three-putted Nos. 13, 15 and 17 coming in. Still Chow and Na are Nos. 1 and 2 individually. Chow is at 3-under 141 (72-70) after 36 holes and Na is close on her tail at 142 (71-71). Alina Ching and Somin Lee contributed rounds of 78 and 77, respectively, and both are among the top 15 players on the individual leaderboard.
“I can for sure see that I’ve improved,” Chow said of the year that has passed since she last played Red Sky. “I think this year, I’m not getting so mad. There are holes that are forgiving.”
As for Na, the senior got it to 5 under at No. 12, but made four bogeys over the next six holes. The wind began to pick up and Na had trouble placing her ball on the correct side of the hole. It’s what caused the three-putts.
“It’s going to happen,” Na said resiliently. The Waves immediately embraced her, and minutes later had circled in prayer.
Part of Pepperdine’s purpose, it seems, is spirituality. Gibbs calls this team a special one, and one with great leadership. Everyone has a nickname, and Gibbs hugged each player Tuesday morning as she made her way off the first tee.
“The girls have been really inspired by each other,” she said.
The key word in Round 3 will be focus as Pepperdine takes a double-digit lead into the final 18 holes. The team doesn’t seem preoccupied by the leaderboard, however. Pepperdine has won 15 of the past 17 West Coast Conference Championships, and a few by big margins. This is familiar enough territory that the Waves know how to perform.
“The point will be not to think about the leaderboard,” Na said.
In fact, the goal mainly will be to stay on their feet. After five competitive rounds in the past five days, fatigue could be a factor for Pepperdine. With two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore, the Waves, at least, are experienced.
“We have a great traveling group,” Gibbs said.
As the familiar saying goes, success breeds success. For Pepperdine, familiarity does, too.