Sandra Gal's success is the UF women's golf team's loss.
The two-time All-American tied for 14th in the final stage of the LPGA?s Qualifying School in Daytona Beach over the weekend. She was one of two amateur golfers to earn an exemption card for the LPGA Tour?s 2008 season.
On Sunday night, Gal decided to forgo the second half of her senior year to join the ranks of the world?s finest female golfers.
BIt was a difficult decision,C Gal said. BI really didn?t know what I wanted to do coming into the tournament.
BI was playing the event to get the experience for next year. My plan was to finish out college.C
But as the grueling five-day event wore on, her plan changed.
BI knew I could manage it with my golf and my abilities,C Gal said.
Her resilience and consistency, which produced four par-or-better rounds throughout the 90 holes of BQ School,C convinced her that she could handle the mental grind.
BSo many factors are involved for you to finish (high). You only want to do it once,C she said, laughing.
UF women?s golf coaches Jill Briles-Hinton and Robin Walton, both former LPGA regulars, came to Daytona Beach on Sunday to watch Gal fire a 3-under final round 69 and earn her card.
BI?m just thrilled for her,C Briles-Hinton said. BShe?s done something that?s unprecedented.C
Gal was penalized two strokes for slow play, Briles-Hinton noted, and was Bhead and shoulders aboveC many of her competitors.
BShe?s ready,C Briles-Hinton said.
Added Gal: BAt the end, (the coaches) pulled me over and said, 'It?s your decision.? I really appreciated that.C
Briles-Hinton felt it was her duty as a coach to push Gal to take the opportunity.
BI did not want her guilt to make her give up her card because I wouldn?t have had the Sandra there that should be there,C Briles-Hinton said.
For Gal, the significance of her choice is sinking in slowly.
BIt?s a big dream,C she said from Daytona Beach, where she is currently attending LPGA orientation sessions. BSometimes I catch myself at orientation.C
But she isn?t about to forget her team.
BI?m still staying for one semester,C Gal said, adding that the academic career, which has included several awards over her time at UF, will close with her graduation in May. BI?ll be able to practice with the team.C
And Briles-Hinton isn?t about to forget Sandra Gal.
BI?m going to miss her,C she said. BShe?s a wonderful kid.C