Ponte Vedra resident and golfer Hannah Berman will travel to Israel this summer to compete in the 20th World Maccabiah Games, where the world’s top Jewish athletes gather every four years for an Olympics-style event.
Peter Epstein, head coach for Team USA’s men’s and women’s golf teams, recently announced Berman’s appointment for the games, which are set to take place July 4-17.
“I think Hannah’s ability and experience will prove to be an advantage for us this summer,” Epstein said.
Team USA will send a team of more than 1,100 athletes, who will join the 8,750 Jewish athletes from 80 countries participating in 43 different sports. Berman, 19, will be the youngest member of the women’s golf team.
“It is truly a humbling honor to represent Team USA at the Maccabiah Games,” Berman said. “I am certainly hoping to bring a medal home to the First Coast. This is a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to connect with my sport, my faith and Israel in a shared experience with fellow athletes, and also with my family who is coming along for the journey.”
A 2016 Ponte Vedra High School graduate, Berman was a two-year team captain and two-time MVP who led the Sharks to a sweep of district and regional titles and a fifth-place finish in the state championships during her senior year in 2015. She is currently on the golf team at the University of West Florida, where she was named October’s Gulf Coast Conference Freshman Athlete of the Month.
Berman started playing tournament golf locally at 9 years old on the North Florida Junior Golf tour, regionally on the Hurricane Junior Golf tour and nationally at American Junior Golf Association events, including the Rolex Tournament of Champions. At 16, Berman played in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship and has qualified for the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
Off the course, Berman has raised more than $50,000 for local charities. She started her own fundraiser called “Hitting it with Hannah,” when she was 12 years old and has participated in the AJGA’s Birdies for Charity program. She was honored with the 2015 USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award, the highest honor in the nation given to a junior player. In 2016, Berman was named a Florida State Golf Association Scholar, as well as the recipient of the Jacksonville Area Golf Association’s Bill Black Scholarship.
The Maccabiah Games tournament will be held at the Caesarea Golf Club located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Past gold medalists include Bruce Fleisher (1969), Cory Pavin (1981), and in 2013, Laetitia Beck of Israel, a 2014 Duke University graduate now playing on the LPGA Tour.
In addition to the games, athletes will participate in ISRAEL CONNECT, a cultural and educational program which takes place for seven days prior to the start of the event. Athletes will have the opportunity to tour historical and religious sites, participate in cultural identity seminars and train with their teams, while developing lifelong relationships.
“Golf has taken me to amazing places, helped me make friends all over the world and given me experiences I never would have had otherwise,” Berman said. “Being part of the Maccabiah Games will be right up at the top of that list.”