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UNLV golfer approaches record of LPGA Hall of Famer

Updated July 27, 2021 - 9:50 pm

You have to be doing something right on the golf course when your name is linked to Patty Sheehan, the Hall of Famer who won 35 times on the LPGA Tour.

Before Sheehan skyrocketed to professional fame, she was a stellar amateur from Reno and winner of the Nevada Women’s State Amateur a record four times.

Enter Veronica Joels, the UNLV standout who won the Nevada Women’s Amateur this month for the third time, leaving her one victory shy of Sheehan’s mark.

Joels did it in spectacular fashion, making birdie on six of her final eight holes at Red Hawk Golf and Resort in Sparks to edge UNLV teammate Aliyah Williams by a single shot.

“I played pretty well overall and hit a lot of fairways and greens,” Joels said. “I think I hit 17 of 18 greens in the final round, but on the back nine the putts just started falling.”

After 10 straight pars to open her round, Joels made birdies at Nos. 11, 12, 13, 15 and 16. She closed out the title in style by hitting her approach to 3 feet on the 18th for her final birdie and the victory.

“I have a lot of pride to be the Nevada champion and represent my state,” she said, calling the three titles among her proudest accomplishments as a golfer. “It’s just super exciting.”

Amy Bush-Herzer, her coach at UNLV, said she couldn’t be prouder of the payoff for someone who has such an unbelievable work ethic.

“Veronica is such a great student-athlete,” Bush-Herzer said. “She represents Las Vegas so well.”

With more than 100 titles in her golf career, there is no denying the great athlete part of Joels’ resume. But Joels is even prouder of her accomplishments as a student.

“My priority is my education,” she said.

She graduated early last December with her degree in Hospitality Management. Now in a graduate program at UNLV, she’ll continue to play for the Rebels next season.

Bush-Herzer is happy to have her back and expects big things — and leadership — from Joels next season as a veteran on a team that will feature six new players.

“To help her grow as a player has been an honor,” Bush-Herzer said.

Joels said college golf has made her a better player and helped calm her emotions. The sport forces you to play in a variety of situations, to play when you’re not feeling your best and to learn not to get down too much, she explained

“College golf changes you,” she said. “You have to learn to adapt and play. You get put in every situation, and the competition is so valuable. It makes you grow.”

Joels said ball striking is her clear strength on the course, while working on getting more putts to fall is her challenge. Like anything she does, she has a rigid daily routine to turn a weakness into a strength.

“I believe if you do it every day, you get better,” she said.

A second-team All-Mountain West Conference selection last year, Joels hopes another year of experience translates to success next season for her personally and the team as a whole.

Bush-Herzer says Joels is one of the most creative players she has coached, who has a great understanding of the distances she hits her clubs.

“She has a real solid grasp of her game,” Bush-Herzer said.

She also has a love for the game, something she had lost when she gave up tennis at age 9 and turned to golf instead.

Whether that love translates to a professional career, Joels isn’t sure. She’ll go to Q-School next year to try to earn her playing card. But if she makes it, she might defer her status to complete her senior season at UNLV.

And maybe one more chance next summer to catch Sheehan in the record books.

Greg Robertson is a freelance reporter who covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at robertsongt@gmail.com.

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