Stephanie Gelleni Q&A

Senior Stephanie Gelleni (Caracas, Venezuela) is a co-captain on the Pepperdine women’s golf team. Pepperdine has one of the nation’s top programs and Gelleni hopes to lead the Waves to another successful spring season, culminating at the NCAA Championships in May. She is a standout student, having earned WCC All-Academic honors and representing Pepperdine at the NCAA Leadership Conference last summer. With the spring season about to begin, she sat down for a few minutes to talk about the season ahead and her golf career.


Q: You’re about to begin the spring schedule of your senior season. What have your four years at Pepperdine been like?


A: “It couldn’t have been better. I’ve had different teams. We started off with South American girls on the team so that helped me a lot personally. We’ve gone from big teams to small teams. Now we have a really small team. Now I’m a captain and it’s great to teach them for next year. I’ve been through all the positions on the team. I’ve learned a lot from Coach Gibbs and Coach Kamimura. It’s been awesome. It couldn’t have been better.”


Q: Pepperdine’s women’s golf team has been very successful in recent years. What do you think this team is capable of accomplishing?


A: “We have a really small team. We have five and one of them just came in. I think we have a lot of space for growth. We have a lot to learn, definitely. But I think we have great strengths. Taylore (Karle) is amazing. Martine (de Gannes) is new and she’s got a great attitude. I think we can bring back the trophy. I definitely think it’s possible but for that to happen we have to do a lot of hard work throughout the season. But I do think it’s possible at this point.”


Q: What are your own personal goals for this spring?


A: “I think for right now helping the rest of the team, the rest of girls that will still be here next year. To keep a strong culture for our team going and they can build off that with the new players who are coming in. That’s a good goal for me. As far as playing goes, definitely I want to be a top 50 player and possibly an All-American, which is top 30. I want to have a positive attitude and really have fun since I have just one semester left.”


Q: What does it mean to be a captain?


A: “It helps the team to know what we’ve gone through, and what it’s like being a freshman or a sophomore. We can pass on to them some knowledge and experience. Don’t do this, do that, that type of stuff. It’s fun. I don’t like to sound like the police or someone who knows more than the rest. It’s not just about golf, it’s about life in general and the experience on the whole as a student-athlete. We can help them with that since we’ve been through it.”


Q: What’s been your most memorable moment of being a member of Pepperdine’s golf team?


A: “I have a lot. Last year I was part of the NCAA Leadership Conference. That was a great experience. Right before that I went to watch the team at the NCAAs. I didn’t play but I watched them and that was really a great experience. Being part of the team but not playing was different. It was great to watch Coach Gibbs, and it helps me now as a player to know what she’s thinking. And then going to the Leadership Conference right after, I learned so much there.”


Q: How did the NCAA Leadership Conference come about and what did you do there?


A: “You had to write an essay and submit an application, write a story about how you’ve been a leader. And then you get a call and they let you know if you’re in or not. It was pretty simple ... There were about 350 student-athletes and they were divided into groups of 20, and you did activities with that group the entire time. We went to Disney World. We had business people and coaches come speak to us, really knowledgeable people. And we worked with SAAC stuff, and focused on issues that affect what’s going on with student-athletes at our campuses.”


Q: Academics seem to be very important to you, as you’ve maintained an excellent GPA and been honored as a WCC All-Academic player. How do you balance both golf and schoolwork?


A: “Since I’ve been little, my dad pushed me. School came before everything else, no matter how good you are at your sport. Culturally, coming from Venezuela, you need to have an education. It doesn’t matter what you do, you have to do that first. I know that not every person in the world can go to Pepperdine so I want to take advantage of it. And there is time for everything. People say they don’t have time but it’s not true. There’s time for everything: studying, going to practice, working out. It’s just a matter of time management.”


Q: You are an organizational communications major. What drew you to that and what do you hope to do in that field?


A: “That’s more human resources and consulting and I’m not sure I’m going to go into that. It sounds funny because everyone seems to do something different than their major. I think I’ll fall into that category. I want to work in sports, perhaps at events or in sport management. I’m still figuring it out.”


Q: Will you try to play golf professionally, or continue as an amateur?


A: “I’ll keep playing as an amateur for now. I do want to take a break from being just a person who plays because I want to go into the business side of it. But I may want to go back, so I’m not saying I won’t play ever again. As an amateur I’ll try to play as much as possible.”


Q: Golf has allowed you to travel extensively. What have been your most memorable trips?


A: “I’ve been pretty much everywhere. Every country in South America. That’s where I met many of my former teammates, because we played in South America and they came here and then I came here. I’ve been to South Africa, to Puerto Rico, now all throughout America with our team. Traveling is definitely a fun part of golf. Venezuela is a small country and that’s allowed me to play tournaments for Venezuela. Going to South Africa was a great opportunity. This year the World Amateurs are in Australia and I hope they will send a team.”


Q: Being a native of Venezuela, how did you end up at Pepperdine?


A: “I have a friend who went to USC and we grew up together. I saw her do all the college applications and go to the Junior World Championships in San Diego so coaches would see her. I thought that would be a great experience for myself, even though I didn’t have the record that she had. So I started working with a guy that prepared me for the SAT, and trying to combine that with golf. I came to Southern California and played in the Junior Worlds and Coach Gibbs saw me there. I started as a walk-on at Pepperdine and worked my way up to a scholarship.”


Q: What do you like to do outside of golf?


A: “I like going to movies. I like eating food from home, especially when I’m here. When I’m home I’m not that interested but when I’m here I am. I like playing tennis and watching tennis, listening to music, laughing.”


Q: Are you involved in any community service work?


A: “We try to do some stuff with SAAC. We did a canned food drive and I was partly in charge of that. SAAC is always doing things with the community and I work on that.”



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