U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Sudjianto Taking Unique Route to College Experience
July 23, 2019 | Stevens Point, Wis.
By David Shefter, USGA
Women’s college golf coaches are everywhere this week at SentryWorld, as omnipresent as the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship competitors and volunteers. They are all decked out in their various school colors, seeking the next great talent to matriculate into their programs.
Virtually all of the nation’s top teams are represented from 2019 champion Duke to Pacific-12 Conference powers UCLA, Arizona and Southern California.
But there’s one player in the field who won’t find her school or coach anywhere near the property, and for good reason. Carnegie Mellon, an NCAA Division III institution in Pittsburgh, isn’t looking for the next Lexi Thompson or Ariya Jutanugarn. The renowned research institution can boast of inventors, Nobel Prize winners and co-founders of tech companies.
Division III schools, in fact, can’t even offer scholarships based on athletic ability.
And that suits Alexis Sudjianto just fine. The 18-year-old from Charlotte, N.C., who qualified for this week’s U.S. Girls’ Junior and advanced to match play after shooting 5-over 149 in stroke play, wasn’t seeking a university with a powerhouse athletic program, even though her golf game was good enough to play at the Division I level.
“I wanted high academics, but also wanted [mechanical] engineering and I knew that would be very difficult if I went Division I,” said Sudjianto, who scored 34 out of a possible 36 on her ACT and has never received lower than an A in high school. “Dartmouth looked at me. Obviously, that would have been really good academics. I just don’t think I would have had the balance that I wanted.”
When Sudjianto’s father, Agus, worked for Ford, he used to recruit a lot of engineering graduates from Carnegie Mellon and he once brought back a sweatshirt for Alexis. Subconsciously, she always was intrigued by the school.
While it might not rank as high as California Tech or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, those institutions don’t offer women’s golf. Carnegie just recently started a program and advanced to the NCAA Division III Championship two years ago. The squad will return all but one player for the 2019-20 season.
“I think they have a lot of potential,” said Sudjianto. “D3 golf is obviously really different. Academics are first. [For me], it was hard not going Division I just because you see all these coaches out here [recruiting] and they are decked out in their gear. But at the end of the day, I think it’s where I belong.”
Sudjianto was introduced to golf through her cousin, former University of California standout and Indonesia native George Gandranata. Sudjianto, whose parents are from Indonesia, befriended Gandranata when he came to North Carolina to play golf events. When he qualified for the 2008 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst, a then-7-year-old Alexis tagged along. A few years later, she started playing.
When her family relocated to London, England when she was 12, Sudjianto rode public transportation out to Hedon Park Golf Course north of the city. Sometimes the trip would take 90 minutes due to London traffic. But living overseas and traveling to many European countries, including Croatia, offered a different perspective.
Sudjianto, who has visited 50 countries including Cuba, Jordan and South Africa, attended an American school while her family lived in England.
“It really opened my eyes,” she said. “I’m glad I got to live abroad at some point in my life.”
Agus eventually landed another job as a wealth manager for a large bank back in Charlotte, so the family returned to the U.S. Sudjianto graduated from Charlotte Latin School this year, yet her goals never changed.
Academics, specifically STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) were always stressed in her home.
In a couple of weeks, she’ll take that knowledge and officially enroll at Carnegie Mellon, while starting practice with her new teammates. It will be a different group than what’s assembled here at SentryWorld. Playing professional golf likely won’t be a hot topic of discussion. And Sudjianto relishes this opportunity, even if she’s a little nervous about leaving home and starting college.
Her goal is to someday work in the tech world, perhaps designing clubs for the next generation of U.S. Girls’ Junior or U.S. Women’s Open competitors.
“It’s definitely been interesting,” said Sudjianto of her first USGA championship experience. “How I can come here and [compete] with them, even though our motivations are completely different. I’ve been star-struck by how we’ve been treated and how all the spectators come out.
“[But] my goal this week was just to have fun because I am going to be a D3 golfer. Pro golf is not the goal. It’s not in the picture.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org