COTUIT – Michael Seidman recently returned from a trip to Israel which he described as a family vacation with an excuse for him to play a little golf, but it was much, much more than that.
Seidman brought home a gold medal in golf from the 21st Maccabiah Games, Israel’s biggest sporting event, often referred to as the Jewish Olympics.
“It is the largest sporting event in Israel, and the second largest in the world, although I’ve heard that it is maybe the third or fourth largest sporting event in the world,” said Seidman, a dentist and owner of Dental Associates of Cape Cod in Hyannis since 1992.
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Seidman was part of a team from the United States competing in the Grand Master (65 and older) division.
Maccabiah Games draw Jewish athletes from around the world
“There were 9,000 athletes and they had opening ceremonies just like in Tokyo or Beijing,” Seidman said, referring to recent Olympic games. “It was the first time an American president went to the opening ceremonies. Biden was there.”
President Joe Biden attended the opening ceremony of the 21st Maccabiah Games July 14 at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.
“I was walking into the stadium with five other ordinary guys my age and I’m thinking, What are we doing here? Is this real? I mean this is nuts,” Seidman said.
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The American delegation consisted of 1,350 coaches and athletes, he said.
The athletes competed for two weeks in 37 different sports, including ice hockey, badminton, equestrian riding, beach volleyball, cricket and, of course, golf.
Going into the last day of the games Saturday, the United States was second, after Israel, in total medals won with 62.
Games held in Israel in July
Americans won three golds, a silver and a bronze medal Sunday to end the competition with 33 medals, 13 of them gold,
Seidman and his team accounted for one of the gold medals for the United States.
Two other gold medals were won in golf by the men’s masters team (50-64 or older) and the women’s masters team.
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Seidman said he has been playing golf since he was in middle school and over the years he became a pretty good player, albeit a very modest one.
“I’m okay. I’m no Mr. Wonderful, here. It depends on the day. Some days I look like Arnold Palmer; some days I look like Stevie Wonder,” he said.
Seidman set goal to golf at Maccabiah Games
Seidman was inspired several years ago to try for the Maccabiah Games when his friend Robert Jacobs participated in men’s basketball at the games.
“He said it was one of the best experiences of his life. It was such a cool thing to do,” Seidman said.
For a number of years he thought about trying to qualify in golf but because the Maccabiah Games are not widely publicized he would miss the dates for the qualifying trials or forget about them.
Then in 2016, he made the decision to go for it, but then couldn’t because he had back surgery.
In 2020, he was ready to go again, but COVID-19 hit and the trials were pushed back to 2021.
So finally, last August he went to West Palm Beach and played for three days at the Palm Beach Gardens, a PGA national course.
To qualify, he had to finish in the top six out of 15 to 20 players in his age bracket.
“After the second day I was seven strokes ahead of seventh place. All I had to do was make sure I stayed ahead of him,” Seidman said.
He made the cut, along with five other players, Curt Biren, Brad Kane and Terry Cole from California, Jack Lasday from Chicago, Illinois, and Bruce Apple from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Pressure to play at your best
At that time Seidman said he was playing very well, shooting under 40 on most nine-hole outings.
By the time the games came around in mid July he said he was not playing that well.
Nevertheless, the top three scores in each round for each team were counted and Seidman scored in the top three twice.
“On the middle day I putted terribly,” he said.
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On the last day he said he was doing all he could to keep it together knowing he had to play well for his team to win.
“I was as nervous as I had ever been on a golf course,” Seidman said. “But my son-in-law, Robert Logan, who was caddying for me settled me down.”
They got the gold.
“Six obscure guys from America got together and did this,” Seidman said.
Sharing experience with his family
However, the big thing for Seidman was going on this trip with his family — his wife, Nancy, his two daughters Elizabeth Seidman and Rachel Logan and her husband, the caddie.
For three days before the golf tournament, he and his family toured Israel, visiting various historic and religious sites, such as the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, a holocaust museum and the ruins of Herod’s Palace.
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He credited his office manager, Heidi Olwell, his partner Janet Butts and the staff at Dental Associates of Cape Cod for supporting him in making the trip.
They were also the ones who spread the news of his accomplishment.
“I didn’t really want to do this, but my wife said to me if you can influence a little boy or girl who is Jewish to try to do this, it will be worth it,” Seidman said.