Hadas Libman is the latest diamond in the rough in Jewish Athletes. She hails from Israel and sacrificed time away from her family to live the dream of becoming a professional women’s golfer. She won her first Israeli Open when she was 13 years old and has won 4 Israeli Open titles since 2008. Get to know Libman as she has kindly agreed to an interview with Ha’Am, and get ready to hear much more of her as the golf season unfolds.
Natanel Almany: What made you decide to play golf in a country where golf is not widely available? (There are only two golf courses in Israel.)
Hadas Libman: Well, before I started playing golf I played every other sport. I played soccer, basketball, tennis, and I used to swim and ski as well. When I was 11 years old, they did tryouts for golf at my elementary school one morning, and I decided to come back that afternoon. I continued to come back every afternoon to play. I actually started playing golf while tennis was my main sport, and eventually I quit because I wanted to pursue golf. Then I started playing competitively when I was 11 or 12, and by the time I was 13 I won my first Israeli Open.
NA: What’s your biggest motivation?
HL: My biggest motivation is representing Israel. I want to represent Israel in the Professional Tour. I want to put Israel on the map. Basically, every professional woman golfer aspires to play in the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) because the best players in the world play there. My goal is not only to play in LPGA, but also to win an event at the LPGA, which would be an incredible achievement for me.
NA: You transferred from Baylor University, a renowned establishment, to UCLA. What were the factors that provoked this decision?
HL: I think there were three main factors. The first one is that I think that UCLA is a better academic school. Secondly, I think I will have better opportunities with golf here because the golf team at UCLA is always one of the top teams in the country. So it’s a really well-rounded program where not only is the golf program great, but it’s also a really great school. The biggest reason why I decided to transfer is because I was looking for a bigger Jewish community, which I didn’t have at Baylor. And UCLA has a lot of it to offer.
NA: What are your biggest goals now that you’re at UCLA?
HL: Become more patient with my decisions on the golf course, and improve and focus on parts of my game that I feel need work. I mean they might seem small, but I know they’ll help me in the big picture.
NA: At what age did you see potential in yourself to become a professional golfer, or at what age did your parents see it fit to invest in your golfing abilities?
HL: Well originally I used to play golf more as a hobby in my early teenage years, and about two years ago I decided I wanted to play golf professionally. Before that I would still perform to the best of my ability, but I thought of golf as more of an opportunity to get into a school and fulfill myself in my college years.
NA: What’s the hardest part about pursuing a dream abroad?
HL: Being away from where I grew up and being away from my family. I left Israel at an early stage when I was 15. I was in boarding school for three years, at Baylor two years, and now I have another two years at UCLA. I think when I was 14 or 15, I told myself I’d do anything to play golf, but now I’m 20 years old and I sometimes regret not staying a bit longer in going through my maturing stage with my parents, because I had to go through it alone.
NA: What would you tell a young Jewish woman at 15-16 years old starting her path as a collegiate or even professional athlete?
HL: Take one step at a time. I moved to the States from Israel when I was 15. I think I tried to rush my maturing process. I think that in high school I didn’t enjoy my time enough. I was focusing more on golf and school, and I neglected everything else. Instead of enjoying the process, I was looking at the results. When I was in high school, I always wanted to see myself in college already, and even now while I’m in college, I want to see myself in the professional tour. I’ve been trying to stop myself, and I’m trying to enjoy the process of getting there.
Hadas Libman is a prime example of a prolific role model for any young woman who is sacrificing certain aspects of her life in pursuit of a dream. Her resumé of success and relentlessness seems impeccable. Her story is bittersweet, but it’s satisfying to hear, as a fellow Jew and Bruin, that she finds refuge in our strong Jewish community here at UCLA. I look forward to following Hadas’s future successes as she pursues a promising golf career.