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The Maccabi friendship powering 20-year PanAm return

Posted: 04-May-2019 by PanAm Games 2019

20 years ago, a fresh-faced Michael Diamond returned from Mexico, a bronze medal draped around his neck.

It’s been a big couple of decades for one of the most versatile athletes Maccabi has seen in recent times. He’s represented his nation at the Maccabiah Games in three different sports – one of just two people to boast such an achievement – held the position of treasurer of Maccabi Australia for roughly six years, and given more than most to the organisation.

But as Diamond prepares to return to Mexico, this time as a member and team manager of an experienced golfing contingent, he credits one man with sparking the journey.

“I can blame Harry [Procel] for me,” he said.

“Even though I played a lot, in the year 2000 I went on a JCC Games in America and Harry was head of delegation. I went as a manager of table tennis and we shared a room and became very close.

“Since then I basically was treasurer of Maccabi Australia for 6 years, treasurer of 3 Maccabiahs with Harry as the top man so he’s really got me involved. We’ve had a really close relationship since.”

Procel is a Maccabi legend. A life member and former president of Maccabi Australia, few have a better CV within the organisation, and he continues to be involved. The multiple-time head of delegation has won gold in masters golf at back-to-back Pan-American Games.

Diamond and Procel (R) out on the course

Joining him this time around will be regular playing partner Diamond, as well as Phil Green and sole opens competitor Matthew Danos. While a small contingent of just four, they’ll likely boast more Maccabi experience than any other.

“We’re an extremely experienced Maccabi team,” Diamond said.

“Masters team we’ve got three. Harry, I call him ‘Mr. Maccabi’ he’s an amazing man. But in terms of PanAms golf he is returning, he won in 15 and 11. Two PanAms ago he won the gold in masters net after handicap, and also in the team event he won a gold last time. He’s returning to try and relive some of his past glories. Everyone knows Harry, in terms of Maccabi he’s a legend.

“Phil Green is one of the other golfers from Sydney, not so much experienced in the level he’s been involved in the many levels of Maccabi for many years as well. I’m the manager and the third player in the team, this is my second PanAms. I actually was in Mexico 20 years ago, I was there for masters soccer and we won a bronze in that one. So I’m really looking forward to returning to Mexico it’s a great city, great Jewish community and I look forward to that.”

The masters trio will compete as a team, hopefully alongside a fourth. The search is ongoing for a final member, with the spot also potentially being filled by a competitor from another nation once on the ground in Mexico City. The best three rounds of each day count, meaning they’ll depend on one another in their pursuit of glory.

Being an individual sport, there’s not much preparation they can really do as a group. But Diamond believes the strategic element of the game often goes unacknowledged.

“It’s about helping each other, just trying to keep your game steady – that’s the hardest part about golf is steadying and keeping it going,” he said.

“So all you can do is practice, get a feel of the course. Hopefully, we get a few practice rounds in and talk about it together and work out how to approach each hole. Golf is more technical than people realise, you need to look at each hole and figure out the best way to tackle it for your game. A lot of strategy involved that people don’t realise.”