Strokes of genius, on canvas and course
There's something poetic about Sandra Gal staring out of a hotel room tucked into the rolling hills and refreshing shores of the French countryside. A renaissance girl in a world of smartphones and Snapchats, Gal pulled out her paintbrush and canvas at Evian Resort Golf Club, site of this week's Evian Championship, the fifth and final major of the 2013 LPGA season.
Her mission: To produce a work of art for her good friend, whose wedding she will attend in Italy next week.
"I was thinking a nice wedding gift would be a painting," said Gal, who got some extra time to work on her painting Thursday after the first round was postponed due to rain. She might need it. The former University of Florida golfer, who was raised in Germany, admitted she already has started a second draft since she arrived at Evian.
"Most of my paintings end up being presents for my friends and family," said Gal, who has one victory and 11 top-10 finishes in her LPGA career. "I think people appreciate gifts like that because it's from the heart, and it takes time and effort."
They also appreciate it because it immediately enhances the interior aesthetics of their homes. You see, Gal is not your average painter. Think a little more Picasso, a little less Peanuts.
"At a very early age, Sandra developed an incredible taste of form and color," said Gal's mother, Alexandra. "When she was really young, she had an ear infection and I had to go to a doctor with her quite often. As a treat we went to a clothing store afterwards to buy her a small present -- she immediately knew which color and shape she wanted."
The innate ability with a brush and insatiable appetite for painting further intensified when Vanda Skalova, a family friend, was appointed as Sandra's nanny during the days when both of her parents were at work. Skalova had studied art history at the University of Prague and served for many years as a curator at the State Gallery in Prague before she had kids.
"When we were together, it wasn't really instructions, it was more, 'Let's paint together and see where it goes,' " Gal said. "I still apply that to what I do today. I'll just start something and an idea will come later."
As Gal progressed through childhood, she naturally grew as an artist. What started as a tendency to stick to abstracts (though, admittedly, that's still her favorite) transformed into a full-blown repertoire of landscapes and portraits. Perhaps none of her works defines this maturation more than a portrait of Marilyn Monroe she completed in an intensive art class during the last two years of her primary schooling in Germany. Vanda had taught her the beauty of an infinite imagination, and now a formative education had given her confidence in technique.
Fast-forward past a successful collegiate career at Florida and you'll find one of the more multi-dimensional members of the LPGA Tour. Fresh off a tie for sixth at the Safeway Classic, Gal enters the Evian on the cusp of an opportunity to become one of the more impactful faces in a sport always hungry for icons. Not only can she use her avant-garde imagination to navigate around the French fairways, she can also use her skills off the course to perhaps put a paintbrush and a canvas in front of the next budding artist.
This fall, the LPGA has decided to auction off some of Gal's works at the affiliated charity events of a handful of fall tournaments in Asia.
"We usually bring all kinds of golf equipment to auction off, but I think the tour really likes that this is something different," Gal said. "It showcases our tour. As an athlete, I feel like whatever we do goes beyond playing golf, and I think this is a great opportunity to do just that."