Monday, May 09, 2016

Laetitia Beck proud to represent Israel in Rio

(Photo: Donald Miralle, Getty Images)

USA TODAY Sports counts down the 100 days to the Rio Olympics with daily stories about athletes, teams and coaches preparing for the Summer Games. The opening ceremony is Aug. 5.
For Laetitia Beck, golfing in the Olympics is about more than the competition.
As the only Israeli golfer on the LPGA Tour, the 24-year-old regularly represents her country abroad while playing in high pressure situations. But she hopes competing in the Olympics will show the world there’s more to her country than war and politics.
“Representing Israelis, I think we have a lot more to give and show than what’s going on in the country now,” Beck said. “The way I behave and the way I carry myself can show people there’s another side of Israel other than war.”
She’s also looking to promote golf — which will be played in the Olympics for the first time since 1904 — in her home country.
Despite winning the Israel Ladies Championship when she was just 12 years old, Beck said the sport is so unpopular there that she moved to the U.S. by herself 10 years ago when she outgrew the nation’s lone 18-hole course and the mediocre coaching resources. She attended the IMG Academy, a private boarding school dedicated to athletic training in Florida.
“It was a little hard to — once I reached a certain point — get better, so I had to make the choice of leaving the country,” she said.
After helping Duke University win an NCAA Championship in 2014, Beck became the first Israeli golfer to qualify for the LPGA Tour later that year. She competed in 14 events during her rookie season in 2015.
Although the official selection won’t be made until July 11, Beck is all but guaranteed a trip to Rio. The top 60 in the Olympic Golf Rankings will be chosen to compete, with a maximum of four per country if they are ranked in the top 15. Outside the top 15, there's a maximum of two per country and she currently is No. 43 — the only Israeli ranked on either the women’s or the men’s list.
Regardless of the competition, she said she does her best to display her national pride with the Star of David always hanging around her neck and the Israeli flag appearing on her golf bag, shoes and even ball markers.
“Especially now with the Olympics coming up, I think I’ll be able to help bring awareness to the sport,” Beck said. “Soon, more people are going to know Israel has someone to represent them on the golf course.”
Laetitia Beck of Israel tees off on the 7th hole during
Laetitia Beck of Israel tees off  (Photo: Todd Warshaw, Getty Images)