Getting into the C-Class Cabriolet this morning, Sandra Gal feels like her life has come full circle. She loves beautiful cars.
In fact, she has had a soft spot for special vehicles ever since childhood and, from an early age, loved to sit behind the steering wheel. The first-ever vehicle to catch her fancy was a golf cart. But more on that later.
There is a warm wind blowing gently over the golf course of Lakewood Ranch in north-eastern Sarasota County, Florida, as Sandra Gal buckles into the Cabriolet and sets off for an open-top jaunt around the “Sunshine State”.
Awaiting her along the route are bays lined with palm trees and mangroves, and roads and boulevards that will take her past snow-white beaches.
The C-Class Cabriolet at the Sarasota port in Florida.
Gal packs her golf equipment into the trunk of the Cabriolet.
Having first put down the top and gotten comfy in the cream-coloured driver’s seat, the professional golfer heads west under a clear-blue sky towards Sapphire Shores.
“Such a dream”, sighs the 34-year-old, smiling as she recalls her first road trips as a young child, back when she couldn’t even hold a club properly but was already busy making her rounds on the golf course.
She had gotten her first set of plastic golf clubs on her sixth birthday as a gift from her parents. “Back then, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about golf itself,” Gal recalls. But something golf-related had caught her eye: the golf cart her parents would whiz around the course in.
So it was her early fascination with driving that eventually led Gal to golf. And golf that would lead her to success. At 14, she had been identified as an exceptional talent and championed accordingly. By the age of 17, she had been accepted onto the German national team. Having been awarded two golf scholarships in the US as a teenager, she moved to Florida for the first time and continued to enjoy ever-greater tournament success. She completed her high school education and continued her studies, earning a Bachelor of Advertising degree before turning professional in the final semester of her studies.
In the years that followed, she became Europe’s number one female golfer and, in the US, played against the best female golfers in the world. An exceptional talent, she was celebrated as the “German golf queen”. A star on the world’s greens.
She has now lived in the US for 16 years, spending up to ten months of the year on tour. She loves coming back to her adopted home of Sarasota, Florida.
Out and about in Sarasota: Sandra Gal enjoys the airstream.
After suffering a long illness, Gal is enjoying life more than ever.
“You mostly have great weather for training here, even in the winter,” she explains. “And I love having the warm sea at my doorstep.” She often puts her bike in the car and drives to the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, where she does yoga, swims and jogs.
A picture-book life ... but also one with scope for change, with the will to continually develop, both on the greens and off.
“2019 was a key year for me,” says Gal as she parks the car in front of a restaurant near the bay front offering spectacular sea views. “The last few months have been like restarting with a software update.”
In late 2018, she was struck down with Lyme disease, through which she suffered fatigue and inertia, and became increasingly thin-skinned. In mid-2019, she cancelled all her upcoming tournaments. But this temporary withdrawal from golf also served as a kind of inner retreat for her. Sandra Gal says: “I had always measured myself based on my sporting successes and put myself under enormous pressure.” She takes a sip of her lemonade. “I had to learn that it was not the athlete Sandra Gal who was number one, but rather the person Sandra Gal.”
She spent time in Italy, meditated, did yoga, and prevailed against the disease, coming out of the ordeal with a new attitude. Today she feels more relaxed and laid back. “Without the mask, without the need to always give my best.”
Success and performance. Prize money, victory, fame. Today, she defines these terms differently, dares to take a new perspective on life, on herself. This is the new Sandra Gal. She still boasts a fantastic swing. But she has learnt to let go. Nowadays she paints, plays the guitar, and has even written an original song. She remembers her earlier passions, the ones she had before golf took over her life. As a child, she danced ballet and played the violin in an orchestra. This can all finally return now and take its place in her life again. “That is what matters”, she says. “It’s what is on the inside, not what is on the outside.”
There is another area of her work that she holds very close to her heart. She oversaw her first charity event back in 2015, at which she raised and collected money for Volunteers of America. The non-profit organisation supports the homeless and children from destitute families.
Sandra Gal today, more relaxed and laid back than ever.
In August 2019, she opened her first Sandra Gal Children’s Center. Located in Miami’s Little Havana, the centre offers painting, music and yoga classes for disadvantaged children. It is a place where talent can be identified and promoted, and where fledgling grandmasters can practice their skills on their own putting green. Just like the young Sandra Gal did back then. When she wasn’t zooming around in a golf cart, that is.
On seeing the C 300 before her in the golden afternoon sun, Sandra Gal can’t help herself. She just has to take it out for a few more miles, cruising around her corner of Florida for the rest of the afternoon. She puts on her sunglasses, climbs in and sets off.
As she heads north, she sees Sarasota Bay open up before her: the mint-green sea, yachts moored off Bird Key, boats bobbing along the jetties in the evening light. Sandra Gal steers the car along the secluded coastal roads, through a world of palm trees and pink villas, with the smell of the salty sea heavy in the air.
At the end of this beautiful day, the courses are calling her name, and she can’t resist.
She has to play a quick round of golf on this balmy evening, to feel the force of a perfect shot in her muscles. She drives the Mercedes-Benz back to her home, grabs her golf bag, parks the car at a nearby country club, and heads to the golf course.
It is time to do what she does best of all. “I have once again rediscovered my love of golf,” she explains. “I don’t put myself under so much pressure any more, and am playing better for it.” She already has her next tournaments lined up. She wants to make it to the top again. Totally professional, totally relaxed.
She says this as she pulls her golf club back before whacking it into the distance. A white dot curves majestically up into the evening sky.
Perfect conditions for teeing off in the evening sun.