Talk about having good athletic genes.
Three of the four Ross siblings of Sandy Springs will be representing Maccabi USA in this summer’s World Maccabiah Games in Israel: Kayla, a rising senior on Boston University’s women’s soccer team; Alex, a 23-year-old golfer and Davidson alum with serious PGA aspirations and Owen, a soon-to-be senior at Pace Academy who is getting recruited by a passel of D-I schools to be their next goaltender.
And yet, according to little brother Owen, it is 23-year-old Julia, Alex’s twin — the one not competing in Israel — who may be the most talented of all the Rosses.
“She [Julia]’s arguably more athletic than all three of us,” Owen is quick to point out about his older sibling, who had a brilliant career at Pace, lettering in three sports (cross country, basketball and track & field) every year, before starting at Georgetown University, from which she graduated last spring.
That three athletes from the same household will be competing on the global stage is, in and of itself, remarkable. Undoubtedly, the selections are well-deserved.
Alex is one of the country’s elite amateur golfers. In 2019, he garnered national recognition when he fired a 15-under 57 in the third round of the Dogwood Invitational at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta — a mark that tied the record for the lowest score in a competitive round in golf history.
He just finished up his fifth-year senior transfer season at USC — where he’s also pursuing his master’s in communication management — and hopes that the Maccabi golfing experience will provide further opportunities to showcase his considerable talents and take him one step closer to joining the PGA tour.
“That [being a professional golfer] really has been his [Alex’s] dream for his entire life as far as I can remember,” says Owen. “Whenever he’s home, whenever he’s anywhere, he always has to have the golf clubs. I am really excited to see what he can do.”
Of course, the World Maccabiah Games transcends athletics. For the overwhelming majority of the athletes, the first week leading up to the competition — “Israel Connect,” whereby participants tour the Holy Land — is nearly just as meaningful, if not more so, than the actual games themselves. Especially when one has never been to Israel to tour the holy sites and splash in the Dead Sea, which is the case for Alex, Kayla and Owen.
“It’s my first time in Israel,” says Alex, “so I’m excited to see all the people, all the sites, but also to compete and try to bring home some hardware.”
Kayla expressed a similar sentiment.
“I’m really excited to go to Israel,” she said. “I think a lot of people speak so highly of their experiences going to Israel. I think it makes it even more special to be able to play soccer, which is obviously something I love to do. I really can’t wait for the whole experience.
“Being a Jewish athlete is such a unique experience because I feel like there are so many pockets of Jewish athletes that I have connected with now, both in Atlanta and at BU.”
Due to the pandemic, Kayla — like her golfing brother, Alex — has the same opportunity to take advantage of an extra year of eligibility, which, for her, would mean playing beyond her upcoming senior year in Boston. It’s certainly an enticing option, considering that she has gone from playing sparingly during her freshman year to appearing in all 20 games of her junior campaign, which included 17 starts.
“It’s been an interesting couple years for everybody, but especially for people in college,” acknowledges Kayla, a two-time Pace Academy MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, who was voted the most improved player for the Terriers last fall.
Just like college sports, the Maccabiah Games, unquestionably the world’s largest Jewish athletic competition, haven’t been spared the pandemic-induced chaos of rescheduling and postponements. In all likelihood, the Ross siblings, who have previously participated in the JCC Maccabi Games — an annual competition for teenagers, held stateside — would have been competing in Israel for the first time last year, had it not been for unforeseeable circumstances. (Occurring every four years, the Maccabiah Games were last held in July 2017.)
“Sports have always been a big part of my and my siblings’ lives,” says Alex. “Our parents always stressed academics, so that was something that was always in the forefront. It’s been sometimes challenging to put a lot of time into both things, but definitely worth it. So, to have all of us excel in athletics and be able to represent our country — and especially Jews in the U.S. — it means a lot.”
To make the experience even more meaningful, accompanying Alex, Kayla and Owen to Israel next month will be proud parents Peter and Stephanie and older sister Julia, who, after all, may be the best natural athlete of the exceptionally talented family.