LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Sandra Gal, a player who once spent part of her offseason at a silent retreat, found a rather blissful zone early on at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
“I actually didn’t know I had six birdies in seven holes until just now signing the scorecard,” said the statuesque German of her 4-under 68. The opening mark gives her the clubhouse lead over a host of notable pursuers at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, including Brooke Henderson (69) and Moriya Jutanugarn (69).
Gal’s fine form can be traced back, at least in part, to recent work with instructor Cameron McCormick. The pair began working together toward the end of April after Gal had finished no better than a share of 42nd in her first six starts. Since then she has recorded four top-15 finishes, including a share of third at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
Two big areas McCormick addressed: putting grip and a pattern to her ballstriking.
“Really committing to hitting fades was key,” said Gal.
When she made the trip up to Ponte Vedra, Fla., during The Players to see McCormick, she also committed to a left-hand-low putting grip. She had tinkered with it before, but knowing that McCormick felt it was a good move gave her the confidence needed to stick with it.
At last week’s Ladies Scottish Open, Gal had trouble hitting shots off the ultra-firm ground. She worked with McCormick on hitting little cuts off the tight lies and found success trapping the ball a bit better.
While they haven’t gotten into too many deep conversations just yet, McCormick did give Gal a book to read on stoicism, “The Daily Stoic.” McCormick stressed to Gal that she’s in control of what she thinks and how she feels.
“Meditation to me was always kind of just observing your thoughts and not really changing them,” said Gal. “I think with that input, I learned to maybe create my thoughts in a better way that’s more healthy for me and more beneficial to my life and career.”
As for that silent retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, Calif., Gal wondered early on if she might go crazy or explode. It took a few days to settle in, but she ultimately found peace. It was difficult, she said at the time, to multi-task after returning to normal life.
“When you eat, you eat, when you walk, you walk, when you sit, you sit,” she said.
And on Thursday at the British Open, when you birdie, you don’t stop.