Israel’s first professional golfer is in the Valley this week to compete in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup Tournament March 16-19 at Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix.
Laetitia Beck, 25, has toured on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) circuit for three years.
Born in Belgium, Beck moved with her family to Israel when she was 6 years old. The family lived near a golf course.
“My parents played,” she said. Although she played tennis three times a week and golf twice a week, it was golf that ultimately won her heart. She began competing and at the age of 12, she played in a ladies open tournament and won.
By the time she was 13, it was obvious that there was nowhere else to go for advanced instruction or competition. Israel isn’t known for producing professional golfers.
“I needed a coach,” she said. Her parents saw her passion for golf and when she turned 14, they sent her to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, a boarding school that offers academics and sports training for college-bound students, as well as for collegiate and professional athletes and Olympians who want to improve their performance.
“We had school in the morning and sports in the afternoon,” Beck said. After graduation, she enrolled at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, both for its reputation in academics and its golf team. In her senior year, the Duke team won the National NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) tournament. The organization is dedicated to the academic and sports training of college athletes who strive to become professional athletes. By then, Beck had worked with a coach.
She has competed in LPGA tournaments for three years, starting after her Duke graduation in 2014.
“I’m based in Miami, but I only spend four months of the year there,” she said. She’s on the road the other eight months, playing as many as 20 LPGA tournaments a year. Following the Phoenix competition, she’ll head to San Diego for another tournament.
Beck, an observant Jew, said she keeps kosher — not always easy while traveling.
“It’s important to me to keep the tradition,” she said. Because it’s hard to find kosher food in many places, she said she eats mainly fish.
During tournament week, she practices from 2:30 to 8 p.m. Asked if she has a “lucky” golf club, she said, “Not necessarily,” but added that she keeps several small Jewish-related items in her golf bag as symbols of her faith.
“I also write [the number] 18 on my balls,” she said of the number that means chai, or life.
Beck visits her family in Israel the last three weeks of December each year, the only time she can get away. Besides her parents, she has a brother, a twin sister and another sister.
She said she wants to keep playing golf as long as she can. She was one of 60 golf competitors in the 2014 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I really hope I get a chance to play in 2020,” she said of the Summer Olympic Games, to be held that year in Tokyo, Japan.
“I hope to compete for a medal. If I stay calm, I know I can beat them,” she said of potential competitors.
What does she do for fun when she’s not on the golf course?
“I need to find a good hobby,” she said.