2016-08-17 / Local News

Voorhees native to represent Woodcrest Country Club at Maccabiah


FAMILY: Parents Ira and Geri; sister Michelle; Fiancé Jenny Retig

AGE: 29

FAVORITE PASTIME: Working out and watching Philadelphia sports


As a kid, Voorhees native Ben Smith’s playground was the Woodcrest Country Club.

This was the routine: His mother would drop him off at the club after his dad had completed his 18 holes. Father and son would then spend hours on the putting green, bonding as young Ben learned the basics. As he grew, there were junior clinics, summer camps on the course, the Grill Room for lunch and President’s Room for dinner.

By his bar mitzvah, Smith was good enough to play competitively with the grownup players. At 16, he became the first player in the club’s history to win both the junior and men’s championships in the same year.

Since then, there has been more prestigious titles, such as winning the New Jersey Golf Association Open in 2012, and Smith has moved on to play at the competitive Huntingdon Valley Country Club. Yet his ties to the club of his youth remain strong.

So when he competes in the 20th Maccabiah Games in Israel next summer, ranked as the top amateur Jewish player on Team USA, the Philadelphia resident says he will also be representing the Woodcrest Country Club and the South Jersey Jewish community.

He said he’s thrilled that his first post- Birthright Israel trip will be a chance to match up with other elite Jewish players from around the world.

“I came back from Birthright totally excited about my experience,” said Smith, who works in his family’s packaging business and is in the midst of planning a wedding that will take place not long after he returns from Israel. “That was when I started thinking more about my culture and being Jewish. I’m excited to go back to relive that and also to be able to play golf, representing my country and the Cherry Hill area.”

The Maccabiah Games, which take place every four years, are the third largest sports competition worldwide behind the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. Beyond the prospect of competing against other elite Jewish athletes, it’s also a cultural journey, providing a Zionist experience for some 9,000 athletes and participants. Athletes must raise money and pay their own way to compete.

Smith has had the Maccabiah on his radar for a while thanks to his friendship with Bruce Apple, who is serving as the national golf chair. Persuaded by Apple, Smith traveled to South Carolina this July to compete in a three-day tryout. Smith was the low qualifier of the 10 athletes who made it onto the men’s open team, meaning he ranked as the best player.

“I’ve known him since he was a little boy at Woodcrest,” said Apple, the owner and president of Apple Physical Therapy in Cherry Hill and Marlton and an avid golfer. “It was a lot of fun for me, as a friend of his parents, watching Ben grow up on the golf course.”

Apple, who has participated in two other Maccabiah Games on the medical staff, said he’s thrilled that Smith and one other Philadelphia region player, Ben Feld, are on the team.

To help Smith reach his fundraising goal to compete in the Maccabiah Games, visit http://musa.convio.net/goto/bensmithgolf

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