Local youth golfer follows her passion.
Bella Leonhart grew up in a family of golfers. As early as age 4, she learned how to hit golf balls. Now, at 11, Bella has won over 30 Minnesota Junior PGA competitions, with nine wins in 2018 alone. She has made the All Star Minnesota Junior League team and has played in more than 27 competitive rounds of golf in 2018. This spring, Bella is set to play in the Drive, Chip & Putt finals before the 2019 Masters tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.
When she was younger, Bella’s mother Joselyn Leonhart pushed her around in a stroller while she caddied for her son Charlie, who also plays golf and is four years older than Bella. Any downtime the family had involved going to a cornfield-turned-driving range, called Ironwood Golf Range, about one half-mile from their home in Marine on St. Croix to hit a bucket of balls. They were one of the first families to have a season membership there, Joselyn says.
“A gentleman there, an old retired guy, gave youth lessons on Saturday mornings,” Joselyn says. “Every Saturday morning we’d go, and he had contests and just made it super fun.”
Bella’s size didn’t stop her from joining. “Even though Bella was pretty little, he offered to let her play,” Joselyn says. “She’s terribly competitive, so she just wanted to be able to do whatever everyone else was doing.”
Bella golfs often in summertime. Whether it’s heading to the driving range or participating in Minnesota Junior PGA tournaments, which Joselyn says typically involves traveling two days a week, she’s engaged in some kind of practice. There is a putting green in their backyard along with a hitting net inside the house, so Bella can practice at home.
During winter, Bella hits indoors and takes lessons with Craig Brischke at Tanners Brook Golf Club.
Bella does well because of her hand-eye coordination and maturity level, Brischke says. “She gets it,” he says. “She’s not intimidated in front of an instructor like a lot of kids are, she’s willing to soak up all of the stuff she hears and she just likes the game.”
When Bella isn’t at a driving range or playing in a tournament, she also loves to ride and show horses as an equestrian.
Looking toward the future, Bella hopes to get a scholarship to play golf in college. “This is something that she wants to do long term and is not just something that’s a pastime for her,” Joselyn says.
Once she hits seventh grade in the fall, her next step will be to play on the high school team with the Forest Lake Rangers. The head coach of the team, Andrea Brischke, thinks Bella will be playing varsity golf in seventh grade, Joselyn says.
“There aren’t a lot of girls who play golf, so when colleges are looking, it’s not hard for them to find the really good girls,” Joselyn says.
In the meantime, you can catch Bella at the Drive, Chip & Putt Finals on April 7 when it airs on the Golf Channel. She had to beat thousands of girls to get to the competition at Augusta National Golf Club, Joselyn says. “Having that opportunity for a little kid to putt on 18 in Augusta is something really every grown-up dreams of, and so for her to be able to do that is going to be a really big deal.”
READ MORE: Golfing for Kids