03 April 2020
TALK TATIANA WIJAYA
As a talented amateur player, 23-year old Indonesian Tatiana Wijaya secured numerous achievements including gold and silver medals in the individual category at the SEA Games. Last year, the Pepperdine University alumnus stepped up from her amateur status to professional. She is the second-ever Indonesian female golf professional after Lidya Ivana Jaya who passed away in 2013.
With her new status, Tatiana is pursuing success at the top level of professional golf. Aside from her personal career, she has a mission for her country. “I want to be one of the first Indonesian women golfers taking pride and playing great for my country and to inspire the younger generations to continue to enjoy this sport,” explained Tatiana, who began playing golf at age six. Speaking to OB Golf & Lifestyle, Tatiana shared some insight about her new career path, how she reached professional level, and her dream pairing.
You decided to turn pro last year. What prompted that?
It's a funny story. After four years of college, I thought my golf game wasn't good enough. So, I decided to take a break; it lasted several months. During my hiatus, I was missing something. I missed playing golf, missed the competition. I wanted to return to golf and I wanted to play as a touring professional. I had been an amateur for too long. So, I decided to turn pro.
What was the reason you took a break?
I was bored. I played golf since I was 6 years old. When I was in college, I felt very tired after finishing studying. My focus was divided in two: study and golf. It had an impact on my golf, so it wasn't good enough. After graduation, I thought maybe I couldn't play anymore, so I quit.
How did you get started as a professional then?
When deciding to turn pro, I should have analyzed my game first, whether it’s good or not. However, I did not do that. I decided to turn professional when I was in my hiatus. It was my decision, so I accepted the consequences. I didn’t do well in my first professional year. I started from zero again, studying to become a professional player.
What are the differences between being an amateur player and a professional?
A lot! It’s training, eating, fitness. Professionals do it double… triple. For professionals, training takes up an average of six hours per day. That does not include working out. The total can be eight hours a day. It’s not easy to do such a routine. On the range, the way to practice is different. Not simply hitting the ball, it also requires concentration. It's about practice quality. I also have to practice to increase the distance of my shot. I can't just rely on my short game skills. That's why I practice more at the fitness center, to help me have more power to hit.
What are you doing in particular to improve your game?
I'm working to gain distance. To play in the US, I need to shoot long. There is progress: my shot has increased by one club. However, I am still struggling with scoring. Last year, I was stuck at 4 to 5-over in a round. Now, I can manage 1 or 2-over. As a professional player, you must be able to score 70 [2-under] overall. Therefore, I still need time to reach that level.
Where have you played as a professional?
I started in the Philippines, then went to the US and Taiwan. I have spent the most time in the US because its tournaments are better and more competitive. Last year, I had a total of 8-10 tournaments.
Did you have a tour card to play in the tournaments in the USA?
I played in the LPGA Qualifying School last year. I got status to play in the secondary Tour of the LPGA, the Symetra Tour, not a full-membership. However, there are other tours that I can play in by taking part in the qualification. If I can make it in the qualification, I can play in the tournament. There are many ways to play on the professional tour there.
What’s your goal this year?
Symetra has a partnership with a new tour in the US. This tour has two tournaments a month. If in those 10 tournaments, I can finish in the top two or three then I don't need to play in the LPGA Q School first stage. That means I progress straight to the second stage. By qualifying for the second stage, I automatically hold full status on the Symetra Tour. That's the goal I’m pursuing this year.
When you decided to turn pro, what was your main motivation?
I actually want Indonesia to be known in women's golf. As we know, Indonesian female golfers rarely continue to the next level [from being amateur]. I also want golf to be part of our general sports. When one of us can succeed on big tours, like how Rory Hie has achieved on the Asian Tour, the generation below us can have a role model: "Oh, I can do it too!” I felt that when I was a junior, there was no national hero that inspired me. Therefore, I want to be a pioneer or an example for young golfers in Indonesian women's golf.
So, do you have a plan for the next few years?
I have set five years to find out how far my golf game can go on the professional path. I have already passed a year. This year, which is my second year as a professional, and also next year, I have a goal to be able to play [anywhere] on the tour. First, I want to look for experiences and learn more. Hopefully, I can get into the LPGA faster.
What changes have there been to your mindset going from amateur to professional?>
Now I am a pro, I need to think about making the cut. There are differences in cut limits for amateurs and professionals. The cutline for professionals is usually even-par or 1-under, while in amateur events the cutline is over par. Therefore, my mindset is about playing well. If I think I play well, that means my game is usually on a pro-level. We cannot be easily satisfied. In the past, when I was an amateur, if I made 1-under in a round, I was happy because I played well. Now, the score is considered average and not enough. The mentality needs to be changed. The fields in the professional game are very tight.
You were a former national team member. When did you join that team?
I joined the national team in 2011, preparing for the 26th Southeast Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang in November that year. I won two gold medals: an individual and a team with Juriah and Ika Woro. The year 2017 was my last performance on the national team.
What’s the story of your victory in 2011?
I surprised that we won it. In the individual and team category, we came from behind. We just wanted to play all out, and we did it, in the final round. I won over Thailand’s Pinrath Loomboonruang who was an overnight leader in the playoff. I couldn’t explain how I felt at that time, I was just very happy about my debut at the SEA Games.
If you had the chance to choose your pairing with LPGA players, who would you pick?
Korea’s Soyeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park, and Lydia Ko of New Zealand. The first two players are my favorite players. Ko is like an old friend, I met her when she was an amateur and played with her in several tournaments