Waves women’s golfer Gomez, coach Gibbs nab WCC Awards

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Pepperdine golfer Lauren Gomez, shown here during a recent tournament, was named West Coast Conference Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year in 2022. Photo courtesy of Pepperdine Athletics.

Pepperdine Wave’s women’s golfer Lauren Gomez will tee off with one of her favorite golfers in North Carolina next month. 

Gomez, a freshman, will compete in the U.S. Women’s Open Championship in North Carolina. The 19-year-old will play practice rounds with Danielle Kang, a professional golf champion and Olympian she looks up to, who also played collegiately for Pepperdine. 

“Its going to be a really good experience,” Gomez said. “I will be able to learn a lot that I can take into the next few years of college and going forward.” 

Gomez’s qualified for the golf trek from the Golden State to the Tar Heel State by shooting an 8-under-par 136 (68-68) at Soule Park Golf Course in Ojai on April 26.

Her participation in the oldest of the LPGA Tour’s five major championships comes on the heels of her claiming three major West Coast Conference golf awards. She won the conference’s Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards on April 25, two days after leading Pepperdine to a first-place finish at the WCC Women’s Golf Championship and winning the WCC’s individual title. Additionally, on May 10, Gomez was named the WCC’s Golfer of the Month for April.  

Gomez was excited to win the honors but said garnering them wasn’t a goal she had at the beginning of Pepperdine’s 2021-22 campaign last September. 

“As a freshman, I didn’t know what to expect coming into college golf, so its been a really great experience and I’m super grateful for those titles,” she said. “I knew I just wanted to play my game and do the best that I could.”

Gomez, a standout high school and amateur golfer before coming to Pepperdine, said learning to best manage her time was the biggest adjustment she had to make to college golf. 

“I have done a pretty good job,” she said. “I’m getting the hang of it. I’m happy with the way I have played and I have become a better player since I have been here.” 

The Waves’ season ended in the NCAA Ann Arbor Regional on May 11. Pepperdine, the 10th seed, finished sixth in the event, but only the top four finishers moved on to the NCAA Championships. That didn’t stop the honors from rolling in for the Waves though. Pepperdine sophomores Lion Higo and Kaleiya Romero, along with Gomez, were named to the 11-player All-WCC Women’s Golf Team, and Waves head coach Laurie Gibbs was named a WCC Co-Coach of the Year. 

The Women’s Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame member has now won the conference’s top coaching award 14 times. Gibbs won the award for the first time in 1998. She then won it in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2015, and 2019. 

Gibbs was honored to win the award again and credited her team for winning the WCC title. 

“I’m really proud of the team,” she said. “We had to really rally at the end of the semester and close out the spring. For that I was really, extremely proud of them they really came together.”

Gomez said she and her teammates are excited for Gibbs. 

“She is really great coach,” Gomez said. “She has taught us a lot. She will do anything for us.” 

Gomez, ranked No. 84 on GolfStat, won the WCC conference title after shooting a 54-hole score of 3-under (70-72-71). The event was her first collegiate title and she led the field the entire tournament. Gomez’s 10 birdies tied for most in the tournament.

Gomez said the April 21-23 WCC event was her best performance of the season. She said she bounced back from a subpar performance at the Chambers Bay Invitational in Seattle. The Waves finished sixth at the April 11-12 event. Gomez finished tied for 39th in the individual standings. 

“I knew I had to do something good in order to be in contention for those titles and it worked out really good,” said Gomez about winning the WCC crown and the three conference honors. “That was my best week. You never know when you are going to be ‘on’ or ‘off’ — golf is such a crazy sport — my game was just more ‘on’ at the WCC tournament, but also everything that happened in the tournament before letting me know what I needed to work on. Without that bad tournament I don’t think I would have won the WCC.”  

She enjoyed playing in tournaments at the Stanford Golf Course and the Palos Verdes Golf Club this season. 

“I played really well at those two,” she said. “That’s probably why I liked those courses.” 

Gomez finished tied for 36th at the NCAA Regional. She had a 1-under in the final round, her eighth below-par round of the season. That gave her sole possession of the Pepperdine freshman record.

Golf has always been part of Gomez’s life. When she was a baby, her parents, SueEllen and Richard Gomez, placed a small club in her crib. Gomez has lived most of her life in San Diego. She attended Point Loma High School and made the 2017 and 2018 All-CIF San Diego Section first team and was named the Player of the Year in 2017. Gomez was named the CIF San Diego Section individual champion in 2017.

Gomez’s family moved to Murrieta two years ago and now live on the course at Bear Creek Golf Club, one of the best golf clubs in the state. Gomez said the course has been good for her to practice on.

“It’s been huge for my game,” she said. “I think I have improved a lot from living on that course and getting to play with a lot of good players there.” 

Gomez won the 2021 AJGA Ping An Bank Junior Championship and was a 2020 AJGA Rolex Junior All-American honorable mention. She was also a semifinalist at the California Women’s Amateur that year. 

Her golf game, Gomez said, improved during her freshman season. Gibbs and Pepperdine assistant coach Rich Greenwood taught her a lot about course management. Gomez is confident in her skills after a successful season.

“I am going to try and not have expectations,” she said. “What I learned from this season, is not having expectations is sometimes a lot better. I am just going to do my best.”