Year 12 Young High School student, Joel Shields is well on his way to becoming the number one ranked amateur golfer in Australia. In fact his ultimate goal of one day becoming a professional golfer doesn’t appear too far out of reach for the 17-year-old considering he has just been selected on the Australian team for the 2013 Inaugural Australian Youth Olympic Festival. He is also part of an exchange program with the Mona Vale Golf Club which will see him travel to England mid next year and he has plans to travel to the United States early in 2013 to attend a show case in an attempt to secure himself a scholarship with one of the USA s top universities. The NSW state junior golf coach contacted the family household to deliver the good news about the Youth Olympic Festival where Joel is one of 20 players chosen. Held in Sydney from January 15-20, 2013, the festival embraces a high level of competition and has elements of the Olympic Games model, such as an opening ceremony, medal ceremonies and an athletes village. The teenager from country NSW will compete against players from Argentina, China, Fiji, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Chinese Taipei. As of 2016 golf will be an Olympic sport. Being selected for the 2013 Youth Olympics was quite a shock to me – it will give me the chance to compete at extremely high levels with friends on the Australian team as well as athletes from different countries, Joel said. This will help me get my foot in the door for my career, so I m extremely excited, he said. Joel s mother, Colinda Murphy said she is very proud her son has been considered worthy of playing on the Australian team, being one of only 20 players (boys and girls). This is a huge recognition of his abilities, she said. As for his trips to England and the US – Joel said it all hasn t quite sunk in yet. It’s going to be a trip of a lifetime to be able to walk and play on the greatest courses in the world and play with some of the game s elite, he said. Joel is currently ranked 83 in the country and over the past 12 months he has racked up some pretty impressive achievements. He has been selected on the Riverina Boys Golf Squad (the only player from Young), South West Slopes junior champion for a second year running, member of the CHS Riverina Golf Squad, member of the NSW State Development team and was 16th overall in NSW Boys Junior Amateur Championships. The South West Slopes Junior Championships has been running since 1960 and I am the only junior since 1992 to take out the title twice, in two consecutive years, Joel said. Another junior at the time in 1989, Gerard Kelly of Cootamundra, is now the golf professional at Mona Vale Golf Club, he said. His passion for the sport all began after a Sunday game of golf with friends almost five years ago. From there, it s practice every day before and after school, travelling to Sydney every weekend and competing in tournaments whenever he can. Golf is an individual sport and that s way I love the game – it s you verses the course and your choices throughout the round will determine your score, Joel said. Its harder than it looks on TV – I love getting out there playing different shots and taking on hard shots, he said. You get out of your comfort zone and have to control your pressure and emotions. I just love the game and I don t know what I would do without it, Joel added. Joel would like to thank close family and friends for helping keeping him motivated to achieve his best. Thank you also to James French for all his help and guidance over the past two years – I can not thank him enough for everything he has done for me, Joel said.
Author: Courtesy Christine Speelman, The Young Witness