UNLV golfer wins Utah Women’s Open ahead of BYU grad Lea Garner

Lehi • In the four years of the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open, a couple of trends have developed. Lea Garner almost always claims the biggest check and an out-of-state college golfer takes home the crystal trophy.

UNLV’s Veronica Joels rallied with a 6-under-par 66 in Tuesday’s final round at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club. She posted a 5-under 139 total and finished three strokes ahead of Garner, a former Bonneville High School and BYU golfer, who closed with a 70 and earned $2,000 as the low pro.

Garner took the first two Utah Women’s Open titles at East Bay GC in Provo. She finished fifth overall last August, when University of San Francisco golfer Annika Borrelli won at Thanksgiving Point.

Joels started the final round three strokes behind BYU’s Kerstin Fotu of Alpine, who ended up tying for third place with Sacramento State golfer Tess Blair of South Jordan and Arizona pro Bryce Emily Schroeder.

Consecutive bogeys on the back nine hurt Garner, who still described herself as “pretty happy with how it turned out.” While teaching golf in the Ogden area, Garner has played a partial schedule on the Arizona-based Cactus Tour this year.

Even as an amateur, Joels has played about a dozen events on that mini-tour, starting in March when the college golf season was halted and UNLV moved to on-line classes due to COVID-19. Joels was disappointed to not win a third straight Nevada Women’s State Amateur title last month, but she surged ahead by making seven birdies in the final round of the Utah Women’s Open. She made the trip to Lehi, just wanting to play in one last summer event before resuming college golf – or so she hopes.

Tuesday’s course setup (basically, Thanksgiving Point’s white tees) made for lower scores, with the field playing two strokes better than Monday. That was even more true for out-of-state golfers Katrina Prendergast (67), Schroeder (68) and Joels, who credited better putting for her seven-stroke improvement.

Labeling herself “a go-getter,” Joels said, “being three shots back, it can flip any time. Not being in the last group, not being so intense, I guess, was just the key for me.”

Joels made four birdies on the front nine and moved into a tie for the lead with Garner. They remained even after Garner birdied No. 11 and Joels birdied No. 12.

Garner fell back with bogeys on the par-4 No. 13, where she missed the green with her approach shot, and the par-5 No. 14, where her drive went through the fairway on the left side and she was happy just to find her ball in a bush. Joels, playing two groups ahead, bogeyed No. 16 but then birdied Nos. 17 and 18 to pull away.

Fotu and Blair, winners of the Women’s State Amateur in recent years and semifinalists in 2020, were within one stroke of the co-leaders through nine holes Tuesday. Each player stayed close, until Blair bogeyed Nos. 14 and 15 and Fotu double-bogeyed the par-4 No. 16 after missing the green to the right. Fotu also tied for third last summer at Thanksgiving Point.

Grace Summerhays, the Women’s State Am champion, is playing this week in the U.S. Women’s Amateur in Maryland, where Tuesday’s second round of stroke-play qualifying was postponed due to rain.

Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open, presented by Fairways Media

Final scores


139 – a-Veronica Joels (73-66). 142 – Lea Garner (72-70). 143 – Bryce Emily Schroeder (75-68), a-Kerstin Fotu (70-73), a-Tess Blair (71-72). 144 – Katrina Prendergast (77-67), a-Naomi Soifua (73-71), a-Kiselya Plewe (73-71), Haley Sturgeon (73-71), a-Ali Mulhall (72-72). 145 – a-Lila Galeai (72-73). 146 – a-Kirsten Convoy (74-72). 147 – Sadie Palmer (72-75). 148 – a-Sunbin Seo (77-71). 149 – Jamie Huo (77-72), Carly Dehlin Hirsch (75-74). 150 – Sirene Blair (76-74). 151 – a-Whitney Banz (76-75), a-Laura Gerner (75-76). 152 -- a-Carissa Graft (75-77). 154 – a-Rachel Lillywhite (80-74), Juli Erekson (74-80), Xena Motes (73-81).

(Jesse Dodson/Fairways Media) Lea Garner competes in the Utah Women's Open at Thanksgiving Point on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020.