Veronica Felibert - The Next Venezuelan Golf Star?

Yesterday, Jhonattan Vegas, became the first Venezuelan to win on the PGA Tour, and the first rookie to win The Bob Hope Classic in its 52 year history.  His thrilling playoff victory in Palm Springs was an awesome outcome on a number of levels.

It's no secret that the iconic desert tournament has suffered from "perception problems" in recent years.  Many regard the once vibrant event as a ghost of its former self and overlook the colorful history, seeing only a stodgy, old-fashioned, out-of-touch tournament. 

The Vegas win yesterday... accompanied by its own engaging, rags-to-riches narrative... seems a perfect counterpart to such perceptions: An unlikely rookie, who learned the game in hardscrabble conditions and fought hard to follow lofty dreams, wins in a nail-biting playoff.

One can only suspect that the portly 26-year-old, with his humble origins and historic win, may have also altered some perceptions in his native Venezuela, where golf itself has been denounced by President Hugo Chavez and his supporters as "bourgeois" (Sr. Chavez has a particular disdain for golf carts).  The government has actually seized several courses to provide land for an "ambitious" housing plan and for now,  all golf development is on hold in the country, the future of current venues, uncertain.

There are however, some excellent courses in Venezuela. There's also an active and impassioned golf federation.  ~The FederacionVenezolana de Golf  runs a golf school, and members participate in numerous local and international tournaments and quite a few play collegiate golf in the USJhonattan Vega's PGA Tour win will no doubt inspire some of them to take their passion for golf beyond collegiate and amateur levels.  One young golfer who's already done that is Veronica Felibert.

The 25 year old from Caracas had already established herself as one of the top junior golfers in the world by 2002 when she finished third at the Junior World Championships at Torrey Pines, having been four-time Venezuelan Junior Stroke Play Champion, three-time Venezuelan Junior Match Play Champion and four-time winner of Venezuela's "Gustavo Marquez" Award for the year's lowest scoring average. After an impressive collegiate career with the USC Trojans, Felibert turned professional in 2009, joining the Duramed Futures Tour and this past summer she competed in the 66th U.S. Women's Open.

Though she missed the cut at Oakmont and failed to get her LPGA card for 2011 many feel that for the exceptionally talented Veronica Felibert it's just a matter of time... and her countryman's exciting PGATour win yesterday may just add an extra level of inspiration for this remarkable girl from Venezuela.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Veronica Felibert is also stunningly beautiful... but I'm guessing you noticed that. In the clip above she's announcing that she qualified for the US Women's Open.

Photos : Mike Groll, AP
Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America
YVKE Mundial/Agencias