Jason Li finishes outstanding career at CMU
By Mike Dudurich • June 7, 2021
Mike is a freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich.
Jason Li is a senior business administration major at Carnegie Mellon University.
He’s also an outstanding Division III golfer, one of the best to ever tee it up for the Tartans.
It might be a bit of a stretch, but it could be said those two things have shaped what could be an outstanding future for Li.
Li recently finished another successful regular season for CMU and is preparing for his final national championship competition which will be held at the Oglebay Resort & Conference Center in Wheeling May 11-14.
“I feel like I’ve done well over my four years here at CMU,” Li, who won the 2015 West Penn Junior Championship, as well as PIAA and WPIAL championships at Sewickley Academy, said. “It’s obviously different in college, trying to balance everything out. In high school, I played all the time because it wasn’t as time-consuming. I don’t have as much time to play in the summer because of doing internships.”
His time wearing the Tartan colors was not all birdies and eagles for Li, however.
He struggled for a time when he felt like his game was miles away while his confidence remained at a high level.
“My golf turned pretty miserable,” Li admitted. “It’s crazy to think back to that time. I was always thinking that I would shoot 68 or 69 but at one point I never thought I was going to win.”
CMU coach Dan Rodgers remembers that time and how his then-sophomore fought his way out of it.
“Like with just about every kid, the sophomore year is really difficult,” Rodgers said. “None of the years here is easy, but the sophomore year is one of the toughest. But he worked it out, both on the golf course and in the classroom.”
While the 2020-21 season was shortened considerably because of the pandemic, it was a very good one for Li. In four tournaments, Li’s finishes were T12, T8, first and T2.
“I’ve been pretty steady every year, getting better each year,” he said. “I’m looking forward to see what’s in store for me.”
Li won his first collegiate event at the 2021 Golfweek DIII Spring Invitational earlier this month in Florida. He posted rounds of 69-75-70, making 14 birdies to outdistance 59 other players. And then he followed that up with a second-place finish in the Wynlakes Intercollegiate, three shots out of the lead.
A nice way to bring his collegiate career to an end, with the notable exception of the upcoming national championships. But there’s nothing remotely close to an end for Jason Li at this point. With a strong business degree in hand, Li has laid out a life plan based on his accomplishments on the course and in the classroom.
“Once I graduate, I’m going to give professional golf a try,” he said. “I’m going to give myself a couple years to see if I’m good enough. It’s a hard decision not to try, even if I don’t make it. I’m really excited and I know that I have a good degree to fall back on if it doesn’t work out.”
While Rodgers appreciates the contributions, Li has made to the CMU program, he knows his departure will leave a big hole that will need to be filled. He’s already talked to the team about the issue of someone stepping up into that role.
“Jason is such a good kid,” Rodgers said. “He’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anybody quite like him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who has work as hard as he does. I haven’t run into too many players willing to put in the work to get what he wants. One thing for sure, Jason Li Is going to be successful at whatever he does.”
Rodgers thinks his star player has a real chance at winning the Division III title. He finished 11th two years ago and is currently ranked third in the nation.
Until he makes it official that he’s going to play for pay, he’d like to play some WPGA events this summer. He also is hopeful of getting into the field of the U.S. Amateur that will be held at Oakmont Country Club in August. That’s a sentiment held by many of the top amateurs in Western Pa.
“It’s really cool that it’s being held at Oakmont,” Li said. “I played with Conner Schmidt (the eventual champion) in the West Penn Open at Oakmont, and he played lights out. The course was just awesome. I’d really like for everybody to succeed and I’m hoping to be part of that.”
About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and 33,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund.