The 2015-16 season marks the 23rd season that Laurie Gibbs has been head coach of the Pepperdine women's golf program. In that time, she's taken the Waves to rare heights, annual success and contention for a national championship.
Pepperdine has made 11 appearances at the NCAA Championships in the last 17 years. The Waves have enjoyed four top-five finishes (including second place in 2003) and eight top-10 results. Pepperdine has also ended the season with national top-10 rankings on eight occasions.
In addition, the Waves have dominated the West Coast Conference, winning 17 of the 19 championships ever contested, including the last 14 in a row. Pepperdine individuals have won medalist honors 15 times at the league tournament.
Since Gibbs took over in 1993-94, Pepperdine has recorded 49 tournament victories and has had its players earn first-place finishes 47 times. Additionally, 12 different players have earned All-American honors a total of 27 times. The Waves have had at least one player named an All-American 16 straight years.
The Waves fielded their first team during the 1985-86 school year, and the program made steady progress before exploding onto the national scene in 1999.
Kerry Hopps, the head golf professional at the nearby Woodland Hills Country Club, served as Pepperdine's head coach during the program's first six years. Hopps relinquished her head coaching duties prior to the 1991-92 season. She was succeeded by Kristy Hopkins, a former basketball standout and golfer at Pepperdine, who held the spot for two seasons.
In an effort to further elevate the program, Gibbs, a former teaching professional at The Wilshire Country Club, was hired as the program's first-ever full-time head coach in the fall of 1993. Gibbs initiated an aggressive recruiting and fundraising effort and quickly succeeded in building a nationally recognized program in Malibu.
Under Gibbs, the Waves won the WCC championship for the first time in 1998, and then advanced to the NCAA Regionals and NCAA Championships for the first time in 1999. The Waves posted a fifth-place finish at the Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club. Making the accomplishment all the more impressive was the fact that Pepperdine reached such heights with a roster made up entirely of underclassmen.
That began a run of five consecutive appearances at the NCAA Championships, capped off by a second-place finish in 2003. Led by senior All-Americans Katherine Hull and Lindsey Wright, the Waves produced their best-ever NCAA showing at the Kampen Course in West Lafayette, Ind. En route to the national championships, Pepperdine registered a school-record five straight tournaments during the spring and gained its first-ever #1 national ranking. Pepperdine won its first five tournaments during the spring 2003 season.
Hull, a three-time All-American, won both National Player of the Year honors and the Dinah Shore Trophy from the NGCA in 2003. She held the #1 national ranking among individuals for a time before concluding the season at #3 for the second consecutive year.
The Waves ran off three straight NCAA Championships appearances between 2005-07 and finished no worse than seventh at any of them. In 2005 at the Meadows Course in Sunriver, Ore., Pepperdine was tied for the lead after two rounds before finishing fourth. In 2006, the Waves briefly held the lead during the final round at the Scarlet Golf Course in Columbus, Ohio, before adding a third-place trophy. Three-time All-American Eileen Vargas was the individual leader after each of the first three rounds and eventually tied for fourth place.
The Waves have been back to the NCAA Championships three more times since then (2009, 2010, 2012). The team's most recent top-10 finish was ninth place in 2009.
Gibbs was honored as the 2005 National Coach of the Year by Golfweek and the 1999 and 2003 NGCA West Region Coach of the Year. Additionally, she has been tabbed the West Coast Conference's Coach of the Year 12 times.
Many Pepperdine alums have gone to success in professional golf, with seven players earning their cards on the LPGA Tour: Hull, Wright, Misun Cho, Tamie Durdin, Danielle Kang, Taylore Karle, Nadina (Taylor) Light and Carolina Llano. Before turning pro, Kang won back-to-back U.S. Amateur titles in 2010 and 2011.