CAESAREA, Israel- Led by incoming sophomore transfer and Jacksonville-native Hannah Berman, the U.S. Women's Golf Team won the gold medal at the 20th World Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv, Israel. The U.S. team defeated the Israeli squad on its home course, the Pete Dye-designed Caesarea Golf Club.
Berman, the 2015 St. Johns County Female Golfer of the Year while at Ponte Vedra High School, is transferring to Jacksonville University this fall. She has previously competed on a national stage in the 2015 U.S. Women's Amateur and the 2017 U.S. Women's Amateur Fourball Championship.
While the Games ran July 5-17, the Golf Championship was held July 11-13 on the 6,100 yard course, about 45 minutes north of Tel Aviv. Shooting a U.S. team-low over 54 holes (79-73-76/228), Berman took the silver individual medal.
"My only dream going into these games was to win a team gold medal," said Berman. "We had a strong team, as did the Israelis, and it was a test for us on their home course. I think they knew every blade of grass. So it was a big win for us."
Berman, who chose to compete in the Maccabiah Games this year over several other opportunities, said she made the decision based on playing for country and faith, but did not grasp the scope of what she was part of until she was there.
"I am humbled and honored to be part of the history of the Maccabbiah. The entire experience changed my life in so many ways."
First played in 1932, the Maccabiah Games, often called the Jewish Olympics, is the world's third largest participatory sports event behind the Olympics. There are more than 12,000 athletes from 80 countries competing in 43 sports. With a dual mission of bringing people to Israel to celebrate their faith and connecting them through sports, the U.S. sponsored 1,150 athletes at the Games, the largest delegation it has ever brought, and second only to host-nation Israel with a delegation of 2,200 athletes. Commensurately, the U.S. finished second in overall medals with 90 to Israel's 281. The U.S. delegation had been training in Jerusalem, Netanya, Haifa and Tel Aviv since the end of June, mixing in practice with seeing the touchstone sites of Israel as well as doing mission work.
Said Berman in an Instagram post just before the opening ceremonies, held in Jerusalem's national soccer team home, Teddy Stadium, "To represent my sport, my country and my religion has been the experience of a lifetime. I am so grateful to be in this beautiful country with nations around the world, all celebrating one thing."
While Berman's only goal was to help the U.S. contingent win gold, she was able to shine as the top individual performer for her country.
"To come home as the low American and with a silver medal is beyond my imagination. I was literally shaking coming down the last stretch of holes just knowing we could win a team gold and that I was in contention for a singles medal," said Berman.
A 2016 graduate of Ponte Vedra, Berman will now try to parlay this outstanding performance into a strong fall with the Jacksonville University Women's Golf team.
"Being able to represent your country is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was great waking up here and being able to check the scores in Israel," said Head Coach Jennifer Borocz. "Hannah finishing with a silver medal is quite an achievement and should give her a lot of confidence going into the fall season."
After starting her career at the University of West Florida, Berman is transferring to be closer to her resources and to what she feels is a school and a golf program that fits her better on every level. With JU women's golf returning six players, including ASUN Freshman of the Year Michelle Forsland, playing time will be a battle. Coach Borocz is excited to have what she says is the seven most competitive players on one team in her time at JU.
The 2017-18 season starts on Sept. 10 in Pawley's Island, S.C., with the GolfWeek Program Challenge, a three day event, held at Caledonia Golf and Fish Club.