ISRAELI golfer Laetitia Beck finished a stellar 27th after four days of competition at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, which was held over the weekend at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Black Rock.
It was Beck’s debut as an official Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) player, having earned her membership at the end of last year. She had previously played in only two LPGA tournaments -– one in Canada and the British Open -– participating as a wildcard entrant.
Beck, 23, who currently resides in Aventura, Florida but lived in Israel from ages 6-14 after emigrating from birthplace Belgium, became the first Israeli golfer to qualify as a full-fledged LPGA tour player.
“I’m very proud to represent Israel and I know it’s just the beginning,” Beck said during the tournament.
“It’s nice to be the first Israeli on tour but I want to do more than that; I want to win. I’m also excited for the things I can do for golf in Israel.”
Beck endured several hiccups on day one, shooting five above par for 78 at Australia’s most prestigious women’s golf event, before bouncing back with strong performances on day two (71) and three (73), which saw her through to the final round on Sunday.
“I was two under par [in the second round] and putted pretty well,” she said.
“I think I still missed a few shots, but the main change was that I knew the course a bit better. So first day I had a few club selection mistakes that cost me shots; it’s not that I hit a bad shot, just took the wrong club.
“On the second and third day I learnt from that and I didn’t make the same mistakes.”
In sweltering conditions on the fourth and final day, Beck’s inconsistency saw her swing a 74, which cost her an even higher placing. Nevertheless, she took home $10,000 in winnings.
“It was an up and down day,” said Beck, smiling.
“Shots to the green were not good. I made some very, very good saves [for par]… It was an interesting day today.”
The promising display in Melbourne is the steady realisation of a dream that began when Beck’s family moved from Belgium to a house bordering Israel’s solitary 18-hole golf course in the ancient port city of Caesarea, when Laetitia -– pronounced La-ti-sha -– was just six-years-old.
Her parents, also avid golfers, encouraged her with lessons, which led to Beck moving again at 14 to a private athletic training institute in Florida. She then attended Duke University, graduating in 2014 with an assortment of golfing honors including consecutive All-American selections (2013-14).
Despite many years living abroad, Beck proudly displays blue-and-white insignias on her clothing and has played in the past two Maccabiah Games.
She said, “It’s very important for me to represent Israel. Every tournament I wear the Israeli flag -– if I get to represent Israel at the Olympics it would be very touching.”
Pictured: Laetitia Beck looks down the fairway at the 2015 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. Photo: Peter Haskin