Felibert making presence felt during first LPGA Tour season
For months, Veronica Felibert was just another LPGA Tour rookie looking to find her way among the best players in the world.
Then came three glorious days in Arkansas in late June, early July.
Felibert, the only player on Tour who hails from Venezuela, led two rounds of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G before notching a career-best tie for fourth place during a weekend she still beams about.
Felibert put together rounds of 65 and 66 and held both the 18- and 36-hole leads before her swing failed her in the final round and she fought her way to a closing 72 that left her two strokes behind winner Ai Miyazato. Many players would be discouraged by the finish, but not Felibert, who appreciated her time in the spotlight.
“Wow, what an amazing experience,” said Felibert, who has earned $100,324 this season. “It was so much fun – nerve-racking, but fun. I loved every minute of it.
“It was so nice to see all your hard work pay off and feel like you really belong out there. It is motivational to keep working hard and reassuring that my hard work does pay off.”
The performance not only solidified her spot on the 2012 money list, but served as proof that Felibert not only belonged on the LPGA Tour, but could be a contender.
“Ever since Arkansas, I have proved to myself that I can compete at the highest level playing against the best players in the world,” she said. “It has shown me that I’m very close to my goals and on the right track to achieving them.
And what are her goals for the rest of 2012?
“One of my goals was to make it into the British Open,” said Felibert, who earned a spot in the LPGA’s final major of the season thanks to her exploits in Arkansas. “I have never played in Europe before, and I’m thrilled at the opportunity this year. Now my goal has shifted to playing my best and moving up the money list to be able to play in Asia.
“I find the opportunity to travel to Asia to play golf fascinating. I have heard great things about the tournaments over there, and that is good motivation for me to keep working hard at my game.”
Felibert is no stranger to hard work. After taking up the game at age 7 under the direction of her father, Felibert developed into her country’s top amateur. She won the 1997 Venezuelan Junior Championship and was a four-time Venezuelan Junior Stroke Play Championship winner (1997, 2000-02).
Felibert also claimed the Venezuelan Junior Match Play Championship from 2000-02 and had to work hard to pursue her passion. A close-knit family helped the young talent develop into a major force.
“The junior programs in Venezuela were just OK, but I was lucky enough to have the support of my parents,” Felibert said. “There are no public courses back home, so it makes it hard to be accessible for anyone, but the federation still managed to put together junior tournaments that made it fun. It is a small community, and there were some great players who helped me out a lot. I spent a lot of time traveling around South America gaining experience as a junior.”
Felibert went on to play college golf at the University of Southern California, where she won two collegiate events and graduated with a degree in business. That degree, she says, is a big asset to her as she manages her professional career.
“I feel it helps me a lot,” she said. “I think having a good understanding of business is a real asset when it comes to making decisions that directly affect my finances in years to come.”
When Felibert played on the Symetra Tour in 2010 and 2011, her success continued. She recorded a trio of top-10 finishes before qualifying for the 2012 LPGA Tour.
Her success, from the junior ranks onward, has propelled Felibert to the top Tour in the world and has given her confidence to perform at her best.
“Well, one thing can be said of winning, it breeds more winning,” Felibert said. “I think winning at any level is very important in the game of golf. Golf is a game unlike any other – you can sometimes go very long without winning. Having those experiences to look back on helps remind me that I can compete on any level.”
Two years on the LPGA’s developmental tour also did great things to develop Felibert as a player and competitor.
“Playing on the Symetra tour was great,” she said. “I built lots of great relationships and feel really fortunate to have met so many wonderful people along the way. I feel the Symetra Tour prepared me for the challenges I would have to face being a professional golfer on LPGA Tour.”
When she’s not working on her game, Felibert is an admitted “gym rat” who loves to work out. In fact, any type of activity that gets her heart racing is of interest to the Venezuelan.
“I have so many passions,” Felibert said. “I would say I’m the most passionate about dancing though. I also enjoy running and, more recently, swimming. When I was young, I always enjoyed painting, but it’s hard to find the time to do everything I’m passionate about.”