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A Club Pro Heading for the Ranks of Amateurs

Kerry Hopps doesn’t need words to describe the highlights of her golf career.

She simply touches the index finger and thumb on her right hand and forms a zero. The gesture could pass for an OK sign.

“There aren’t many,” she said of her competitive playing days.

The modest recall is somewhat misleading, however. Her best round is a 70. She never played on the LPGA Tour, but she is classified as a club professional. Hopps, in fact, completed an education program with the PGA to earn that rank.

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Growing up in Camarillo, Hopps was introduced to golf by her parents at 12. She’s been at it ever since.

After going to Rio Mesa High, Hopps played four years on the golf team at CSUN. She began working at Woodland Hills Country Club during her freshman year, and six years later was named the head pro.

Starting in the fall, however, she returns to the amateurs to head the new women’s golf program at Pepperdine University. Three weeks after her appointment, the Simi Valley resident is preparing for what could be a tough first year.

“The first year will be the biggest challenge,” she said. “We just have to keep it alive.”

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That is about all the athletic department at Pepperdine expects from the women’s golf program in its first year.

At first, just fielding a team is enough. By adding golf and swimming to its list of six women’s varsity sports, Pepperdine is meeting new NCAA standards for Division I status.

Originally, the private institution of 2,600 undergraduates in Malibu was prepared to add four sports over three years to maintain its Division I accreditation. But at a convention in January, NCAA athletic directors voted to reduce Division I eligibility standards. Pepperdine was a supporter of the new bylaw.

Instead of requiring eight men’s and women’s varsity sports by September, 1987, the minimum was dropped to six by September, 1985.

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At Pepperdine, the rule brought mixed reaction. In the long run, it meant the university needed to add two fewer programs to maintain its Division I status. In the short term, it meant two additions had to be made immediately.

“I don’t think we would have been voluntarily seeking to expand our program if it hadn’t been put to us in requirements by the NCAA,” said Tim Wilhelm, associate athletic director at Pepperdine.

Hopps said Pepperdine Athletic Director Wayne Wright expects the first year to be hard. “But a few years down the road, maybe five,” she said, “he wants the team to be able to go to nationals, or for a player to get there.”

Hopps’ most pressing problem will be recruiting. For the 1985-86 season, most four-year colleges have already made their choices. Hopps will pick over their rejects.

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“Wayne said they have a girl on the basketball team who is golfing if it comes to that, but I don’t think it will,” she said.

Once given a chance to recruit in season, Hopps expects few problems attracting top players to Malibu. “As a school, you couldn’t ask for a prettier place to go,” she said. “It’s a place where you can golf year-round, and there’s a ton of courses around to play.”

At first, she said, it could be somewhat like her career at CSUN. After the Lady Matadors won the Southern California Conference title in Hopps’ freshman season, they were beset by attrition and struggled for the next three years.

“We started losing players, and that’s when we decided to just have fun,” she said. “We still tried to be competitive, but all the other schools got stronger.”

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The similarity at Pepperdine? “Hopefully, we’ll be going the opposite direction,” Hopps said.

In its own way, Pepperdine is going in a new direction. The addition of Hopps, who lives in Simi Valley, gives the school seven coaches that live in the Valley. And soon to be completed is a radio package with a Valley station that will carry Waves men’s basketball for the 1985-86 season.

There’s no denying the trend at Pepperdine. “For three or four years, we’ve been looking to become an honorary member of a community,” Wilhelm, in charge of the department’s promotion and marketing, said.

“If we were a peninsula, we’d be the tip. We’re not downtown and we’re not up north by Ventura, but we are just over-the-hill from the Valley.”

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Unlike her administrators, Hopps isn’t concerned with the marketing of her program. In fact, if she is stressed by the demands of her new challenge, she is not letting on.

Hopps does not think the coaching position will alter her daily routine much at all.

“Golf is an individual sport, and if they’re good enough to come out, they probably have a person they take lessons from,” Hopps said. “In golf, you usually stick with one person. “It will probably be more watching them practice than any heavy-duty teaching,” she said.

If it takes more, however, Pepperdine thinks it has the women’s golf program in the right hands. “To start a program, I can’t think of anything better than to hire a club pro,” Wilhelm said.

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For Hopps, it’s just another turn in a long association with golf.

“There’s always a shot that brings you back,” she said. “You usually remember the good shots and forget the bad ones.”

Hopps remembers both.

“I don’t know if it’s the ugly shot that went for a hole-in one (at Los Posas) or the good shot that embedded in the back of the cup but didn’t go in,” she said.

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This time, Kerry Hopps has a new shot.


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