Photo by Anthony Mair
Her story: At 9 years old, Veronica was the top-ranked girls 12-and-under tennis player in Nevada. But, in what was “a big shock for everyone,” says her father, Doug Joels, she traded in her racket for golf clubs. Even more shocking was how quickly she became proficient at that sport, too. Within about a year, she was the No. 1 golfer in Nevada for the 10-and-under age group. In May, while still 10, she placed third in the girls 11-12 division at a Callaway Junior World Series event in San Diego. Then Veronica shot a 78 in the final round to win the First Tee of Southern Nevada President’s Cup at the Palm Valley Golf Club in Summerlin. So promising is her future, she’s been taken under the wing of legendary golf coach Butch Harmon, who helps pros such as Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. Veronica, who recently shot a 79 in the final round to finish second in the Girls 11 group at the U.S. Kids Monterey (Calif.) Regional Championship, has a 2.7 official USGA handicap and, at 5 feet 4 inches and 121 pounds, she can drive the ball 250 yards. Next year, at age 12, Veronica will be eligible to qualify for the Women’s U.S. Open as an amateur.
School: The Meadows School, sixth grade
Extras: Veronica routinely gets into friendly putting contests at the Butch Harmon Golf School with, among other Tour players she’s befriended, Nick Watney, one of the top players in the world and a Las Vegas resident. She doesn’t win, but “I have a lot of fun doing it,” she says. She has also been attending The Meadows School for eight years and has received multiple citizenship awards and ribbons for outstanding math and reading achievements. She has also been taking guitar and piano lessons for eight years at the Brill Music Academy and regularly participates in recitals at local churches and libraries.
What she’ll be doing in 10 years: “In 10 years I will hopefully be in the LPGA but still attending school, like Michelle Wie.”
What they’re saying about her: “Her work ethic and her ability to concentrate under pressure, which is unique for a person her age, really makes her special,” says Nick Helwig, who’s been coaching Veronica under Harmon for two years. “The sky is the limit for her, but it is a long road between now and college and then pro. My job is to continue to create a fun environment and keep her interest level there. If she continues on this path, no doubt she can make it to the LPGA.”