Kelley Hester had a remarkable first year as Clemson head coach in 2016-17 as she led the program to many landmark accomplishments.
First, the team won the first tournament in the history of the program at the UCF Challenge in Orlando, Fla. in February. In April at Pawley's Island, Clemson finished a program best fifth place at the ACC Tournament.
Three weeks later, Clemson finished a program best fifth-place at the NCAA Regional in Athens, Georgia. That was an emotional accomplishment for Hester because she played her college golf on the very same University Course. The Tigers were seeded 10th entering that regional, but a second round score of six under par 282,the second best round in Clemson history vs. par, improved Clemson from 11th place to fourth in one day. A final round 298 led to the fifth place finish and the first invitation to the National Tournament in Clemson history.
The performance at the regional made Hester the first coach in NCAA Division I golf history to take four different programs to the NCAA National Tournament. She had also accomplished the feat at Arkansas, Georgia and Furman previously.
Hester became just the 13th coach in any sport to take a Clemson team to the NCAA tournament in the first year and the first to take a women's program to a top 20 final ranking in a rookie season since 2001. All this was accomplished with a team that did not have a senior in its lineup in postseason play.
Ranked 39th by Golfstat entering the NCAA Regional, the Tigers finished the season with a tie for 20th at the NCAA National Tournament at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois. The Tigers tied fifth-ranked Florida State on the challening course, giving the program its first top 20 final ranking. It meant Hester had led two different programs to top 20 national finishes in consecutive years, as she had led Furman to a No. 20 finish at the 2016 NCAA Championships in Oregon.
Throughout her 16-year head coaching career, Hester has recruited and developed some of the top talent in today's game. From 2005-08, Hester coached Stacy Lewis at the University of Arkansas where she was the 2005 SEC Freshman of the Year, 2007 National Champion and 2008 SEC Championship Individual Medalist and Player of the Year. Breaking onto the LPGA Tour in 2009, Lewis has won 11 LPGA events, two of which being majors.
Hester was named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year each of her last two seasons at Furman after claiming SoCon Championships in 2015 and 2016. Under her leadership, Furman produced the SoCon Player of the Year her last two seasons and the SoCon Freshman of the Year the last three.
In 2016, Hester guided Furman to a 20th place finish at the NCAA Championship after finishing fourth at the NCAA Bryan Regional. One of Hester's first recruits at Furman, Taylor Totland placed 20th among the nation's individuals in 2016 after qualifying for the NCAA Championships the year before. Hester was named the 2016 Southeast Coach of the Year by the LPGA and was one of six finalist for the National Coach of the Year honor by the same organization.
She obviously left the Furman program in great shape as the Paladins finished 12th at the 2017 NCAA National Tournament and ranked in the top 10 in the nation for most of the season.
While claiming her first SoCon Championship in 2015, five of Hester's student-athletes were honored on the All-SoCon Team, while three of her newcomers were named to the SoCon All-Freshman Team. Prior to the 2015 season, Hester led Furman to consecutive second place finishes at the SoCon Championships.
Before joining Furman, Hester was the head coach of her alma mater at the University of Georgia for five seasons after five years at Arkansas and one year of starting the program at UNLV.
In her time at Georgia, the Bulldogs made five-straight NCAA Regional appearances and went on to place 10th and 15th at the 2008 and 2009 NCAA Championships, respectively. In 2009, Hester was named the LPGA National Coach of the Year. Along with her team's consistent success, Hester recruited, coached and developed Marta Silva Zamora, who was named National Player of the Year in 2011.
Hester was a four-year letterwinner and three-time All-Southeastern Conference selection for Georgia from 1993-96. She was a member of Georgia teams that placed fourth at the 1993 NCAAs and captured the 1993 and 1994 SEC championships. Individually, she recorded 21 top-20 finishes in 40 tournaments during her four-year career.
Kelley Hester Year by Year
Year School Trn 1st 2nd top 5 Conf. Reg. Nat
1998-99 Mercer 4 NA -- --
2001-02 UNLV 9 0 0 1 5th -- --
2002-03 Arkansas 11 2 1 4 6th 15th --
2003-04 Arkansas 11 1 0 6 9th 16th --
2004-05 Arkansas 12 0 2 7 3rd 8th 11th
2005-06 Arkansas 11 2 0 6 5th 8th 10th
2006-07 Arkansas 10 0 1 4 9th 9th --
2007-08 Georgia 13 1 1 6 3rd 3rd 10th
2008-09 Georgia 11 1 0 4 6th 8th 15th
2009-10 Georgia 12 2 0 7 4th 11th --
2010-11 Georgia 9 0 0 3 8th 14th --
2011-12 Georgia 10 0 2 5 5th 10th --
2012-13 Furman 10 0 2 3 2nd -- --
2013-14 Furman 10 0 1 2 2nd -- --
2014-15 Furman 10 4 1 7 1st 10th --
2015-16 Furman 11 3 2 8 1st 4th 20th
2016-17 Clemson 12 1 0 6 5th 5th 20th
Totals 166 17 13 79 2, 1st