Laetitia Beck hits an approach shot during the first round of the 2014 Ricoh Women's British Open. Laetitia Beck hits an approach shot during the first round of the 2014 Ricoh Women's British Open. Laetitia Beck hits an approach shot during the first round of the 2014 Ricoh Women's British Open. (Photo: David Cannon / Getty Images)

Laetitia Beck takes a golf swing at pro success

The 22-year-old Duke grad is aiming for the LPGA and the Rio Olympics.

Golfers Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson may be household names, but a young phenom is starting to encroach on their turf.

At just 22, Laetitia Beck has competed in some of the world’s most prestigious golf tournaments, including the British Open and Canadian Open, and she’s also the first Israeli to play on the LPGA tour. A recent graduate of Duke University in North Carolina, where she studied psychology while helping the golf team to win the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship, Beck is making a name for herself in the sports world.

Born in Belgium, Beck moved to Israel at the age of six, and grew up in the seaside town of Caesarea with her parents, older sister, Liora, older brother, Yoni, and twin sister, Olivia, enjoying the outdoors.

“I was extremely active. I was very interested in tennis and soccer before I took up golf seriously,” she told From The Grapevine. Although she had no professional role models in the golf game, her mom and architect/designer dad are players and registered Beck and her twin for golf lessons when they were nine.

Beck took to it instantly, enjoying “the focus it requires and the challenge of perfecting the game and swing while knowing that there is not such a thing as a perfect swing. Golf is also a family game. You meet so many different people and you form great relationships.”

Before the age of 12, Beck “practiced twice a week for an hour in a group and then played some rounds of golf with my parents and friends.” Thereafter, she added private lessons to the group ones, practicing every day. Fortunately she lived two minutes by car from a golf course. Dedication paid off: she won the Israeli Open.

Beck enrolled at IMGAcademy, a Bradenton, Florida sports training academy and boarding school, for four years beginning when she was 14, and was on the golf course four hours a day, six days a week.

Adjusting to American culture, food and the language was hard, she said. “It took time for me to feel comfortable.” But she decided to stay for college after Duke recruited her, because “it has one of the best academic and golf programs.”

A 16-year-old Laetitia Beck plays her tee shot at the 4th hole during the final day of the 2008 Junior Open Championship in England.A 16-year-old Laetitia Beck plays her tee shot at the 4th hole during the final day of the 2008 Junior Open Championship in England. (Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images)

While at Duke, Beck admitted, she “struggled at times. It was hard to give up a lot of golf time for my studies. I am a perfectionist and slowly learned how to balance golf with school. At times I wanted to quit, but I am really glad that I never gave up.”

She now calls her university years “overall, a great experience. I matured a lot and became a better person. The main challenge for me was to open up to meet new people that aren’t athletes.”

She may one day build upon the psychology degree she earned, studying “something oriented to business or math.” But right now Beck is focusing on qualifying for the LPGA Tour and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Travel is one aspect of the pro golf circuit that Beck is also still getting used to. Her family is still in Israel, where she plans to live someday.

She has fond memories of living in Caesarea, which she describes as “beautiful, well kept and very green,” with a beach and Roman ruins. “I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to spend my childhood.” It’s her hope that “with future success, I can help some athletes in Israel – especially from unrecognized sports – to realize that success in sports as an Israeli is possible.”

To be successful, she believes, “You have to love what you are doing, in addition to determination and focus, self-discipline, commitment, and competitiveness.” With all that in her golf bag and the talent to match, she’s definitely on her way.

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