Ron Solomon pulled off on what he calls an “unexpected” victory in the Master’s Division of the Israel Open, held recently at the Gaash Golf Club.
Solomon, who made aliyah some 2-1/2 years ago, won in the over-50 age group, where he competed against 40 other participants.
“It felt great winning the tournament,” Solomon said in an e-mail interview. “Before the tournament, there was a website set up with predictions on how players might finish, and my name wasn’t even mentioned, as not many people knew me. Now I’m getting phone calls from people asking me to join them for a game. It seems I’ve earned some respect in golf circles.
“Although there are some other tournaments [in Israel] throughout the year, this was the big one,” Solomon added.
As a result of his victory, Solomon, 57, is currently “playing golf two or three times a week, which is considerably more than before I won the Israeli Open.” The Gaash Golf Club is located on Kibbutz Gaash, about 15 kilometres north of Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean Sea.
While working as an elementary and high school teacher in Winnipeg, Solomon enjoyed golf as a hobby and tried to learn whatever he could about the game. Shortly after moving to Israel, he landed a job teaching the sport to children, ages eight to 17, at the Caesarea Golf & Country Club. (Israel’s only other golf club)
“I haven’t really played in many tournaments before, and this was my first one in Israel. The only other tournament I ever won was the club championship at Winnipeg’s Glendale Golf and Country Club, but that was back in 1989,” he said.
Solomon said he hopes to play for Israel’s golf team in the master’s division in the Maccabiah Games in July.
“Winning this tournament gives me a good chance to make the team. There are three qualifying rounds to make the team. One was in January, another in February and the third in March or April. These qualifying rounds don’t have as much merit in making the Maccabiah team, since the Israel Open was the main qualifying tournament. But I’ll practice two or three times a week prior to these qualifying games,” Solomon said.
“There are also some international tournaments throughout the year in which I would be interested in playing. If I am fortunate enough to make the Israeli team, I could play in them, as they are generally team events.”
Solomon noted that he won the Israel Open “after finishing two shots better than the person who finished second,” Leslie Ben Amir.
He attributed his victory to “a few key shots in the last nine holes.
“Probably the turning point was on the 145-yard 13th hole. I was three shots behind at that point, and the leader got up and hit his shot 2-1/2 feet from the hole. I hit next and put my ball three feet from the hole. I made my putt for a birdie and he missed his.
“Another key shot was on the 17th hole. We were tied at that point, and I sank a 25-foot birdie putt, which put me up by one shot with only one hole to go. I hit an excellent shot on the 185-yard, par-three 18th hole to clinch the victory,” he said.
As a result of his Open victory, Solomon may start offering golf lessons to adults. “But right now, I’m happy teaching kids,” he said.
When asked how he celebrated his victory, Solomon answered, “I had a beer with my cousin David, who was walking with me during the last nine holes. Of course, I called my wife Michal and kids to tell them the good news. There was also a very nice banquet that evening where the trophies were presented.”
Solomon also said that one of the things he enjoyed about the Israel Open was that “my 11-year-old son, Eytan, was my caddie the first two days of the tournament.”
Next year’s Israel Open will be played at the newly redone Caesarea golf course, which was designed by legendary course designer Pete Dye. The Maccabiah Games are also scheduled to be played on the Caesarea course.
“That course will prove to be a much tougher challenge to all the golfers than the course at Gaash,” Solomon predicts.