Kelley Hester is in her third year as head coach of the Furman women’s golf team.
Hester led the Paladins to the 2015 Southern Conference title, Furman’s 14th overall and first since 2009, and claimed the SoCon’s automatic bid to the NCAA regionals. The Paladins placed a league-record five players on the All-Southern Conference team and three on the SoCon All-Freshman squad after posting a record-low 54-hole score of 858 to win the championship.
Paladin sophomore Taylor Totland claimed individual medalist honors and was named the 2015 SoCon Player of the Year, while Furman rookie Alice Chen placed second and claimed SoCon Freshman of the Year honors. Hester, who led the Paladins to four tournament wins during the season, was voted the league’s coach of the year by her peers.
In both of her first two seasons with the Paladins, Hester led the team to a second-place finish at the Southern Conference Championship.
During the 2014 season, Totland placed second among all individuals at the league championship tournament, earning Southern Conference Freshman of the Year honors and claiming a spot on both the All-Southern Conference team and the SoCon All-Freshman team. The Paladins placed four individuals among the top 10 at the championship and sophomore Valentina Romero joined Totland on the all-conference team.
Under Hester’s tutelage in 2013, senior Laura Wearn established a new single season school record after posting a 73.35 stroke average over 31 rounds and earned All-American honorable mention accolades from Golfweek during the 2012-13 season. Wearn, who ranked No. 39 in the Golfstat rankings, received an at-large bid as an individual to the NCAA West Regional.
Hester took the helm of the Furman program after spending the previous five seasons as head coach at the University of Georgia. She led the Bulldogs to five consecutive NCAA Regional appearances and 10th and 15th-place finishes at the 2008 and 2009 NCAA Championships, respectively. In 2009, Hester was named LPGA National Coach of the Year.
“Kelley Hester is a proven head coach of the highest caliber,” said Furman Director of Athletics Gary Clark at the time of her hiring. “Her teams have finished ranked in the top-20 in each of the last seven seasons. More importantly, her approach to the game and preparation for her team are a great fit for Furman University. Kelley is the right person at the right time to lead our women’s golf program back to national prominence.”
Hester’s Georgia squads finished in the top-20 of the final Golfweek/Sagarin rankings in each of the last five seasons, including finishing 12th nationally in 2011-12. Along with her team’s consistent success, Hester recruited, coached and developed Marta Silva Zamora, who was named consensus 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.
Hester graduated cum laude from Georgia with a degree in public relations, was a two-time National Golf Coaches Association (NGCA) All-America Scholar, served as president of UGA’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and was selected to be the female student-athlete to the Athletic Board as a senior.
After two years on the Futures Tour (1996-97), a stint as an assistant pro at Idle Hour Club in Macon (1997-99) and a season as head coach at Mercer (1998-99), she returned to the Bulldogs as an assistant coach from 1999-01.
Hester was then chosen by UNLV as its first-ever women’s golf coach in 2001 and was charged with building a team from scratch to begin competition that fall. Her efforts paid immediate dividends as Hwanhee Lee captured medalist honors at the fourth tournament in UNLV history. Though Hester left UNLV after one season, her influence continued. The team she put together earned a bid to the 2004 NCAAs where Sunny Oh, a Hester signee, won the 2004 West Regional and finished 11th individually at the NCAAs.
Hester then ventured to her SEC roots and had a similar effect on the University of Arkansas program. In five seasons at Arkansas, Hester led the Lady Razorbacks to their best team and individual finishes in school history. Arkansas posted its first top-10 effort at the 2006 NCAA Championships, and Stacy Lewis captured individual medalist honors at the 2007 NCAA Championships.
A native of Macon, Ga., Hester and her husband Trey have a seven-year-old daughter, Elizabeth “Bebe”.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT FURMAN’S KELLEY HESTER...
“Kelley has a proven record of developing outstanding student-athletes that perform at the highest levels. We’re excited to have her lead our program, that has such a rich heritage, into the future.”
President, Nike Golf
“Kelly is a great person and a fierce competitor in all areas of coaching. She will bring a lot of experience, care and excitement to the program.”
“I’m excited about the appointment of Kelley Hester as Furman’s new women’s golf coach. I think Kelley is the perfect person for the job. Her experience and her character will make her a great leader for the student-athletes on the women’s team. I look forward to Furman once again being one of the top collegiate golf teams in the country.”
“Furman University is extremely fortunate to have Kelly Hester as its new head women’s golf coach. She is one of the most respected coaches in the business today. The experience and expertise that she will bring to the program will be a tremendous asset to the university and to the student athletes. I am excited for Kelly and for her new team!”
University of North Carolina
“Kelley is one of the best coaches in the nation. She cared about me, not only as a golfer, but as a person. I know I wouldn’t be who I am without her. Kelley is a tremendous hire for Furman and I have no doubts that she will bring them back to the national scene.”
2007 NCAA Individual Medalist
University of Arkansas Alumna
Two-Time LPGA Winner in 2012