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UCLA Graduate Aliea Clark's Journey From the Course to the Entertainment World - MTG Series

Not all ANNIKA Foundation alumna move on to a career in professional golf. Instead, many take the lessons they’ve learned from competing in elite junior and collegiate tournaments to excel at a different chosen career path. In this new series, we’ll profile these young women and share how golf has been integral to shaping their journey up to, through and after college. These individuals are living our “More Than Golf” mantra and we couldn’t be more proud of them!

Twenty-four-year-old Aliea Clark is going places. And while golf has played an important role in jump starting her career in the entertainment world, she didn’t get bitten by the bug until she was about 10.

“My parents are golfers, but I was initially much more interested in driving the cart and taking pictures of animals I saw on the course,” says the San Diego native and 2018 UCLA graduate.

But that all changed when her parents enrolled her in a one-week summer camp at Twin Oaks Golf Course in San Marcos, Calif.

“Initially I didn’t want to stay because I was the only girl in the group, but for some reason I just loved it. On the final day of camp, we competed in a three-hole tournament and I beat all the boys. One win and I was hooked! I was always a competitive kid; but after that I couldn’t wait to go back out on the course and begged my parents to let me come back for a second week. Before that summer I was much more focused on dance and theater, but golf very quickly moved up my priority list.”

An only child, Aliea is grateful that she was so fortunate to have parents who never forced her to practice or play. Aliea joined her local LPGA-USGA girls golf chapter and found a strong peer group to practice with and compete against. She was completely self-motivated, going so far as to create and present a PowerPoint to them when she was 12 years old that explained how golf was her most-promising route to a college scholarship.

“I was lucky to have a group of friends who played, so I not only had a wonderful support system at home, but among my peers as well.”

Beginning the summer after her sophomore year of high school, she moved on to competing in national Invitationals, making great friends along the way with future college stars and professional golfers like Moriya and Ariya Jutanugarn, Angel Yin, Megan Kang, Lakaraber Abe and Cheyenne Knight. The junior golf experiences drove home how important things like perseverance and preparation are to achieving ultimate success.

“Without golf, I don’t know how I’d have learned those qualities.”

A straight-A student, Aliea was attracted to the idea of playing golf in the Ivy League. But home-state school UCLA – where good friends Alison Lee (winner of the 2014 ANNIKA Award) and Bethany Wu (a two-time ANNIKA Invitational Champion) would be a teammates – ultimately earned her signature. The combination of top-flight academics and a golf program that could ideally advance the pursuit of her LPGA dreams was the perfect fit.

Ecstatic to be a Bruin, she headed up the I-5 to start her new chapter on campus in Westwood. However, despite all she’d accomplished on and off the course during her high school career, Aliea’s transition to college athletics proved more challenging than she ever expected.

“At first, it was tough to balance golf practice, workouts, classes and so many new friends. I was experiencing an abundance of new things all at once and, in order to make the starting lineup, suddenly competing against my teammates who are also dear friends.”

Aliea missed qualifying for her first three events by a single stroke. Halfway through her freshman year she had yet to play in a tournament, dropped a class, and was starting to question whether or not she had made the right choice. The level of competition was eye-opening, and her stomach was perpetually tied in knots. She was being super-tough on herself.

“That fall, I had an ‘a-ha’ moment while the team was away playing in a tournament. I looked inward and realized that playing professional golf might not be the only “successful path” out there. As much as I loved playing at an elite competitive level, I knew deep down that I didn’t want to play golf professionally and that there are other career paths out there.”

This epiphany led her to write down what she wanted to get out of golf, both on and off the course. That simple and seemingly inconsequential step was anything but as it lifted a burden, freeing her up to play better golf while exploring leadership opportunities and an academic path that would allow her to indulge her long-standing fascination with the entertainment industry.

“On Thursday afternoons, our team practiced at Hillcrest Country Club in Century City. The New York street and soundstages on the Fox Studios lot are easily visible from the ninth green, just across Pico Boulevard. One day during qualifying I was just staring across the street, desperately wanting to know what was going on in there. I was so lost in the daydream that one of my teammates had to come over and literally snap me out of it! Eight months later I had the privilege of driving onto the Fox lot every day as an intern – it was a dream come true.”

With her career direction becoming clearer, the political science and communications double major took full advantage of all that Los Angeles has to offer. She “treated college like a job” and interned every quarter starting her sophomore year, becoming a time-management expert in order to juggle the demands of being a Division I athlete while pursuing her post-graduate dreams. Not surprisingly, golf continued to play a major role every step of the way.

“Having a deep understanding and strong skillset in golf got me into so many rooms that I probably otherwise shouldn’t have been in. It came up in every interview and, after I got the job, it gave me something to talk about with many golf-loving executives. Golf actually helped me slip my foot into the Hollywood door as I heard that one management company had an indoor putting green in their office. They weren’t hiring interns at the time, but I brought a cover letter, resume and a sleeve of logo-ed Pro V1s to the receptionist and hoped for the best. Not only did they hire me, but I still play golf with some of the managers at the company when I visit LA!”

During another internship, Aliea’s love of golf helped her connect with CNBC business reporter Dom Chu. He encouraged her to author two golf-themed stories, despite the fact that she was not interning in any journalistic or news-related department. These stories still appear on the site under her byline.

She’s even managed to use her passion for golf in her current job as a showrunner’s assistant for the third installment of National Geographic’s Emmy-winning Genius series, titled “Genius: Aretha.” The show will chronicle the life and legacy of the legendary Aretha Franklin.

“I knew absolutely nothing about physical production and knew no one when I arrived on set in Atlanta. But I managed to make inroads with the notoriously hard-to-connect-with camera team after they learned I played golf. I’m grateful they now take the time to answer all my questions about lights and lenses.”

Aliea has worked for Pulitzer Prize winner and showrunner Suzan-Lori Parks since the start of the writer’s room in New York and describes the experience as “a crash course in making a TV show from the ground up.” In her role, she acts as Suzan-Lori’s project manager, liaising between the showrunner – aka the person who has overall creative authority and management for a television program – and everyone else involved in the project: producers, studio executives, departments heads on set, cast and other crew members.

With the show wrapping, she’ll be moving on to a new challenge – three years of graduate school at NYU pursuing a dual degree: an MBA from Stern and an MFA from Tisch in film production.

As Aliea embarks on her next adventure, golf will undoubtedly continue to play a big part in her life, even if the LPGA isn’t in her future. A signed Annika hat that she received from playing in a long-ago ANNIKA Invitational USA presented by Rolex hangs in her room as a reminder of everything she has learned.

“Annika’s so down-to-earth, graceful and elegant, yet also possesses this quiet power. How could you not want to be just like her?”

No matter where Aliea turns, connections and lessons from golf will always be within easy reach. It’s what makes the game such a unique and wonderful foundation for personal and professional success, a fact she’s poised to benefit from for decades to come.

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