Local Jewish golfer earns her way to the LPGA

Success is par for the course for Elizabeth Szokol.

Local Jewish golfer earns her way to the LPGA photo image
Elizabeth Szokol, shown playing last September in El Dorado, Arkansas at Symetra Tour event, on her way to advancing to the LPGA.

Success is par for the course for Elizabeth Szokol.

She finished fourth in the 2018 Symetra Tour, earning her advancement to the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). She won a tournament, taking the IOA Invitational in May in Milton, Ga. by a single stroke.

A Winnetka native, Szokol received her LPGA card in a ceremony on the final course in Daytona Beach, Fla. Then she joined in a ritual shared by other new LPGA inductees -- jumping into a swimming pool.

Szokol is not the only Jewish woman in the LPGA, but it's a small club. "I am proud to be one of the few Jewish golfers playing professionally," she said. "There were two other Jewish women on tour with me these last two years, and we had a great time going to synagogue together when holidays overlapped with tournaments. We always felt welcomed by the Jewish communities, no matter where in the country we traveled."

Szokol started golf relatively late -- at the ripe age of 14. She had always been athletic, playing a little softball, and a lot of tennis, alongside her older sister and younger brother. But a knee injury prompted her to switch to golf.

In high school at New Trier, Szokol was a four-year letter-winner and both an all-state and all-conference honoree. She posted top-10 finishes at the Illinois State High School Championships during her junior and senior year.

It wasn't until college -- two years at Northwestern and two at the University of Virginia -- that she contemplated a pro-golf career. In 2016, as a UVA senior, she was awarded honorable mention All-American by the Women's Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) and was named to WGCA All-Region Team. She placed 20th at NCAA Championships, posting top-10 finishes in her last three outings before the NCAAs. She finished her academic career ranked No. 34 by Golfstat and No. 51 by Golfweek.

Asked if she based her style of play on those of her golf idols, Szokol said that, in her experience, each player cultivates his or her own style. One of her favorite aspects of the sport is that golfers of different skill levels can play together at the same time.

Tiger Woods is her favorite player to watch in action. "I have always loved watching Tiger play," she said. "He brings so much passion to the game. And he, like me, has overcome many injuries."

Looking ahead, she has set her sights on qualifying for the US and British opens, as well as other international competitions. She'll compete in her first game of the new season in Australia in February. She someday hopes to return to Israel -- where she has visited three times so far with her family -- to play on the country's two golf courses.

In the meantime, she practices on a course just outside Palm Springs, Calif.

While the sport is competitive, Szokol has found friendship in many of her fellow golfers. "On the course, you are professional, and you play the best you can," she said, but off the course, they are dear friends.

"I'm so excited to have finally achieved the dream of playing on the LPGA," Szokol said. "Professional golf has been a career with many ups and downs, and to finally be able to earn my card on the LPGA means so much to me. I can't wait to travel with some of my best friends and compete with some of the best in the world."

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