The global game

Courtesy Creative Commons

Indonesia, Australia and United States.

Out of all the countries Pepperdine sophomore women’s golfer Tatiana Wijaya has traveled to around the world, these are three that have made a significant impact on her life.

Born in Sukabumi, Indonesia to Oel Tjin Gwan and Nina Kathelena Djugo, Tatiana Wijaya has played golf since she was 6 years old.

“Golf has always been the family sport,” Wijaya said. “My dad got me hooked at a young age and I’ve played ever since.”

Today, Wijaya is one of the stars behind the Pepperdine women’s golf team, having started in every tournament over the past two seasons. As a freshman, she was named WCC Freshman of the Year and the All-WCC first team last season after averaging 75.00 strokes per round, which was good for second on the team. Wijaya also had two top-10 and four top-20 finishes, including a season-best fifth-place finish at the Bruin Wave Invitational with a 223 score.

“Tatiana is such a great teammate to have,” senior Marissa Chow said. “She competes so freely, brings a lot of joy to the team and the coaches and has such a humble attitude.”

In the early days of her golf career, Wijaya traveled all around Asia to play junior and amateur tournaments. At the age of twelve, Wijaya moved to Australia, where she worked with coaches David Milne and Lawrie Montague at the David Milne Golf Academy. In 2011, she represented Indonesia at the 2011 Southeast Asian Games and was both an individual and team champion.

“It was such an honor to travel and represent my home country and play with the national colors on my jersey,” Wijaya said. “It is also great to be a global ambassador to the game of golf.”

With so many professional golfers in the world, one golfer that Wijaya compares herself to and looks up to as a role model is Australian golfer Adam Scott.

“I really love Adam Scott not just because of his golfing aspect, but more of how he represents himself,” she said. “Scott won the Masters in 2013, but he is very down to earth, not cocky and very humble.”

The game of golf has made a huge impact for Wijaya in her life, especially with who she is as an individual. She said golf has taught her hundreds of different life lessons and has helped her grow to who she is today.

“Golf isn’t just a sport to me. It’s mainly about how I think and deal with failure,” Wijaya said. “Golf is a game of imperfection, but a lot of the lessons that I’ve learned from the game can be applied to life. It’s about staying patient, staying positive, learning more about yourself, and focusing on the solutions rather than problems.”

Wijaya’s character of being a humble, sweet, competitive and driven golf player has stemmed from a mantra her former coach told her: “to gain control, you must let go.” She says that her mantra reminds her to play freely with no pressure.

“If you try to control the game, it sets you up for failure,” Wijaya said. “Sometimes, we need to be reminded to let everything go and focus on one thing, which is to play the game. You can’t control the future, so you have to keep yourself open to different things on and off the course.”

As for Wijaya’s drive, she strives to be the best golfer she can be, practicing every day at Alumni Park or the Los Robles Greens Golf Course not just her physical game, but also her mental game.

“The thing people tend to forget about sports is the mental aspect of the game,” Wijaya said. “It is important to practice your mentality to stay positive and be able to pick yourself up during the times when you don’t perform to your best ability.”

Much like any athlete, talent is not always enough, especially in an individual sport. Wijaya credits her success to the fruit of good team chemistry with her teammates. Between tournaments, she enjoys spending time with her teammates through different activities, from going out to team dinners, exploring new places, hiking, and even camping.

“Having good chemistry and being a good teammate is very important to me,” Wijaya said. “I believe that it leads to stronger trust and communication for the team on and off the course.”

Wijaya’s impact both on and off the field has also drawn the praise of Head Coach Laurie Gibbs.

“Tatiana has been such a tremendous player for our team,” Gibbs said. “I love her attitude and passion for the game and she is a very great teammate and player who loves to keep everyone involved.”

As an international studies major, Wijaya has credited all her international experience for making her who she is today. From living in Indonesia to Australia and now the United States, she says experiencing so many different cultures has helped her establish her identity not only as a golfer, but as a person.

“Having different cultures have helped me to adapt faster, connect globally, be open-minded to new perspectives, and have a better understanding of others,” Wijaya said.

Through all the places Wijaya has been to during her career and the cultures that she has learned about, she was inspired to learn new languages.

“I think it’s so fascinating to learn how to speak different languages, but it’s also very important to know most of the basics,” she said.

Wijaya’s first language is Indonesian, but over the years she has picked up basic Korean and Chinese. She is currently taking Chinese at Pepperdine and has plans to take German in her junior and senior year.

Coping with a Division I sport in itself always poses multiple challenges. For Wijaya, balancing grades and golf has been a common obstacle for her, not to mention doing all of this in a foreign country.

“Balance between school, golf, and travelling is always hard, but I think time management is very important,” Wijaya said. “As a student-athlete, there are so many things that we are required to do that sometimes we don’t have a lot of time to complete our duties, so time management and planning has been so vital throughout my playing career.”

When asked about her future with golf, she expressed her interest to play professionally for five to ten years in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), but recognizes it will be a tough road ahead. She also hopes to settle down and start a family in her post-playing career.

“I want to play golf some way or another,” Wijaya said. “The sport has meant so much to me, since I’ve been playing since I was 6. It has made me a better person, athlete, student and friend, but most importantly, it has helped me travel and experience the world. However, following my career, I do want to settle down and live a normal life.”

Be it with golf or international studies, Wijaya continues to make her mark worldwide: in Indonesia, Australia, and now in the United States.

Arthur Puu  completed this story in Dr. Ken Waters spring 2016 Jour 590 course on sports journalism.