While Israel’s top athletes are preparing for the 2012 Olympics in London, two young golfers are setting their sights on the 2016 Games in Rio de Janiero.
Laetitia Beck is the hottest property in Israeli golf right now. Born in Belgium, she moved to Caesarea aged six and started playing the sport three years later. By the time she was 12 she had already been crowned national ladies champion.
Her development did not go unnoticed and she was then headhunted by Duke University in north Carolina who offered her a golf scholarship. Today she is ranked number two there and is an integral part of the prestious Blue Devils team.
Her parents, Liliane and Jean Claude, both keen golfers, knew they had a real talent on their hands from a young age and the family, which also includes siblings, brother Yoni, Liora and twin sister Olivia, who is in the IDF, could not be prouder of Laetitia, who this week reached the last eight of the British Amateur Ladies Open.
Beck, 20, won three rounds of matchplay before eventually going down 4&2 to Perrine Delacour of France on the 6,563-yard, par 72 championship course in Carnoustie.
A two-time All-ACC selection, Beck posted rounds of 76 and 79 in qualifying to place 55th overall.
Beck, who won gold at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, feels at home on the course and she has her sights firmly set on Brazil in four years. She has won several major competitions and was the first Israel golfer, male or female, to play at the Canadian Open. Not only did she qualify, but she made the cut.
Her best tournament finish outside of the Maccabiah was runner-up at the Duke of York competition in the UK and the semi-finals of the British Girls Tournament.
Beck said: “Golf is an individual sport which requires a great deal of concentration and commitment. One of the best things about it is that it all depends on you, and you have no teammates or coach you can blame.
"On the course it’s all about being focused and you have to be calm for the next shot. My goal is to represent Israel at the Olympics.”
She speak proudly of her ultimate ambition. "My goal is to represent Israel at the Olympics," she says with ruthless determination.
In the build-up to the British Open, Beck and Hadas Libman, another rising star in the world of Israeli golf, accepted an invitation to see some of the new facilities at Dyrham Park Golf Club. The pair joined members of the Barnet club for some practice holes in the build-up to the British Open in a venture supported by the Israel Golf Federation. The club was recently rated the 11th best in Hertfordshire and it will soon be adding a new driving range and nine-hole course.
Libman, who is 16 and also from Caesarea, came to life on the tee, with some sweetly-struck booming drives. She knows that following in the footsteps of Beck will be a tough act to follow. She took up the sport at 10 and was crowned Israeli Ladies champion three years later.
Libman said: “I’ve played many other sports, but I enjoy being alone on the course and practicing regularly.”
Golf is a growing sport in Israel, with 150 youngsters on the books of the Israel Golf Academy. Facilities are limited with an 18-hole in Caesarea and a nine-hole in Ga'ash but clearly, the foundations have been laid down.
Cyril Kaufman, vice-chairman of Israel Golf Federation, joined both players on their recent trip to the UK.
He said: "I've known Lataetia for five years and saw the potential straight away. As a junior, she performed magnificently and when she finished school she was ranked in the top five of the Rolex Junior Golf rankings in the USA.
"She's a great golfer and I can see the improvement in her all the time. Her dream is to make it to the pro tour and it doesn't surprise me that the Olympic Council of Israel have nominated Laetitia for golf at the 2016 Olympics.
"Hadas also has some series potential. She is following in Laetitia's footsteps and is also aiming for academy and college golf.
“The girls’ development is something very special for Israeli golf. It’s quite an achievement.”