It’s been a while since you’ve heard the name Laetitia Beck, but don’t expect that to remain the case for long. In her final few months as a junior golfer, Beck is about to emerge from a short hibernation period and resume tournament play next month at the Scott Robertson Memorial. If it goes anything like the first few months of 2010, expect to see a lot more of Beck’s name this spring.
Beck is one of those players whose expression rarely changes on the golf course. Even as her position on the leaderboard fluctuates – as was the case during the final round of the Annika Invitational Feb. 15, her last big tournament – Beck’s composure remains the same.
The tall, dark-haired player from Caesarea, Israel, was attempting to make it two big wins in a row that day, after winning the Verizon Junior Heritage the week before over a field that included top-ranked Alexis Thompson. She would end up falling to Victoria Tanco at the first AJGA event of 2010, dropping three strokes on the first three holes of the back nine after hanging with the two-time Rolex Player of the Year admirably through the first nine holes.
After the last putt had fallen at that tournament Beck emerged from the scoring tent remarkably composed, and ready to talk about her round that left her three shots back of Tanco in second place. Beck knew the key factor was that she had simply stopped giving herself birdie opportunities, and when disaster struck with a difficult lie in a bunker at No. 11, she allowed it to follow her to the next hole for another bogey. Still, Beck’s game is improving.
“I don’t think it’s only this week,” Beck said after that round. “… I’m just starting to get better and get confident in my game and swing.”
Confidence might be the key word for this soft-spoken 18-year-old. As her instructor at the IMG Academy, Kevin Collins, sees it, confidence could be the biggest obstacle standing between Beck and wild success. Collins can’t name any aspect about Beck’s game that needs special attention, but instead thinks her jump to the next level will depend on personal growth. He describes his student as intensely shy, but one who doesn’t like the idea that other players are better than her.
“She was comfortable back in second place and she hit the gas again,” Collins said of Beck’s late-round charge at the Annika. “That’s the kind of thing that if she gets over, she’s going to be there, from a contention standing, in every event she plays.”
Even though she doesn’t show much emotion during a round, Beck is a player who makes a big enough statement with her scorecard, resume and work ethic that she doesn’t need to do much more explaining. When she does open up, however, a pretty unique story comes out.
As one of very few women who play golf in her home country of Israel, Beck is something of a national treasure. She won her first Israeli Open at the age of 12, just three years after her parents enrolled her in a couple of group golf lessons at their neighborhood course, Caesarea Golf and Country Club. The 18-hole facility just happens to be the only one of its kind in the entire country.
Finding quality competition in Israel proved to be difficult, especially since Beck was one of the only girls playing the game. She won the Israeli Open again in 2005 and ’06 before moving to the boys’ division in 2007, where she finished fifth. Last year, Beck was named the Young Athlete of the Decade in Israel.
“I didn’t have competition in Israel and so then if I wanted to become a good player I had to move,” she said.
Being a loner in the sport was an important factor in her decision to take her game to the next level. Beck landed at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., under Collins’ tutelage when she was 14. She chose the school because another young Israeli golfer, Lloyd Steinberg, already was there and working with Collins. Having Steinberg around made the transition to such a different culture a little easier for Beck, even though the two did not stay in touch once Steinberg left the academy.
Beck has been in uncharted territory for much of the past three and a half years, but has navigated it admirably, right down to the spot she has secured on the Duke roster for next fall.
“When I got older I realized I wanted to be the best,” Beck explains of how far her golf career has come. “I didn’t think that I would go to college because I didn’t know how it goes when you finish high school, I really didn’t know. I decided to move here but I didn’t have any idea for the future, besides becoming a professional player.”
Becoming a Blue Devil is one more step in the right direction for Beck, but beyond that, taking her career to the next level could mean putting a little more distance between herself and her home. Beck has never competed in USGA events like the U.S. Girls’ Junior or U.S. Women’s Amateur during the summers because that time is reserved for returning home to Israel to spend time with her family. As her last summer before college approaches, Beck is considering staying in the United States to hit the amateur circuit.
It’s an idea that Collins supports, as every bit of experience Beck can get in competitive situations is especially helpful for a player whose biggest weakness stems from the post-round.
“We have her writing her acceptance speech before the tournament starts so that she’s got that out of the way, she’s not thinking about it,” Collins said.
Looks like Beck could be doing a lot of writing this spring.