I know very little—if anything—about the big-ticket game of golf. But Alexandrea “Alex” Schulte, 23, does. At the budding age of 14, the American Junior Golf Association named Schulte one of the Top 50 teenage players in the country.
Schulte, of Naples, Florida, said she’s been playing the club-and-ball sport for 15 years, since she was 8. Her father, Robert Schulte, would travel across Texas with his softball team to compete in tournaments; Alexandrea, a Northern Ute, said she’d go for the ride.
In the downtime between matches, Alexandrea would join the team on the golf course and whack a bucket of dimpled orbs into the Lone Star sky. That’s all it took; Alexandrea was hooked.
But golf isn’t where her ambitions end.
Although Alexandrea hopes to one day go pro and emulously compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) against the world’s premiere female golfers, she also longs for something much more: to inspire Native American youth on reservations spanning Turtle Island.
Alexandrea is a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas; she earned a degree in communications in 2010. Her baccalaureate, coupled with her golf and motivation, Alexandrea said she’s determined to acquaint Native kids with their own talents by visiting them in the classroom.
But Alexandrea is an urban Indian, long since removed from her own reservation. So her question inevitably is: Where to begin?
Indeed. That’s the convoluted question that plagues urban Indians from Los Angeles to the Bronx: How, God, can I help my people?
“I’ve always wanted to go to schools, speak with the kids, interact with them,” Alexandrea said. “It’s a personal goal. I think I want to go to reservations during the off-season and meet kids. I think I can help … I’m just putting myself out there.”
“She’s very proud of her Native American heritage,” said Robert Schulte. “Her mom was very proud of her heritage and she instilled that (pride) in Alex.”
Alexandrea continues to barnstorm across the country competing in golf tourneys—several held just miles from plight-ravaged reservations.
“I have visited some reservations in Arizona and New Mexico while playing golf,” she said. “It was really hard … I noticed that the kids needed something to inspire them.”
Shauna Estes-Taylor, Alexandrea’s golf coach from the University of Arkansas, said Alexandrea is resourceful and eager, and if anyone can find a way to connect with organizations that help kids on reservations, she can.
“She’s super proud to be a Native American,” she said. “I think Alex will show people that she’s out there, and she’ll use her sport and education to succeed in her goal and her dreams. She’s a go-getter like that.”
It took about 30 minutes into our conversation before Alexandrea revealed to me the source of her selflessness. It’s an intimate story about her mother who died from Lymphoma when Alexandrea was only a sophomore.
Alexandrea, then about 13 or 14, would sit spellbound at her mother’s side and listen undivided to stories about her grandfather, Amos Perank. Amos, according to Alexandrea, was one day about to be forcibly removed to a distant boarding school, far from his people. Government agents threatened to cut his hair and strip him of his language and traditional garb. But Perank would have none of that, so he ran away and resisted the government and his removal.
“It’s (that) fighting spirit in us,” said Alexandrea. “I remember hearing about that.”
And it’s that same fighting spirit that Alexandrea said she resolves to honor by helping her people in any way she can, especially the kids.
“My mom always told me to never forget who you are. I always tried to remember that—everyday,” said a melancholy Alexandrea.
She’d someday like to coach women’s golf in the athletic department of her alma mater—the University of Arkansas.
We spoke for 45 minutes about sports, plight, rez kids and all manner of complications she may face on the journey ahead. But Alexandrea is determined to meet her objective. Hurdles be damned.
“Any discouragement would give me the goal to push forward,” she said. “This will take a while. But it can be done. It’s a long road, but I’m willing to take any challenge.
“So many Native American kids have so much talent. I think they just have to have someone to look up to,” she said.