One of the LPGA’s most popular players, Sandra Gal, is out for the year due to being diagnosed with dormant Lyme disease.
Gal told LPGA.com, “I felt like I wasn’t myself. I would come to a tournament, practice, I would have intentions of what I would want to do on the golf course, but I wasn’t able to execute it.”
Per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, and fatigue.” The disease can remain dormant in individuals for years before symptoms surface.
It’s a battle that the 2008 rookie has been waging since a six-week stretch of play in 2018, from the U.S. Women’s Open in May through the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic at the beginning of July.
“I felt like I was running high on adrenaline, then crashed,” Gal said of that period. “I noticed how tired I was. I still played ok a little bit in the summer, but going into Asia I just was not at my best.”
An off season of rest helped Gal hit the reset button heading into 2019. In spite of her best efforts to treat her symptoms, they didn’t stay away. Her fatigue returned in San Francisco after playing in back to back weeks. She withdrew from the Mediheal Championship after the first round.
Gal pushed through her fatigue again, playing nine out of ten weeks from the Pure Silk Championship in May through the AIG Women’s British Open in August of this year. While she had her best finish of the season during that stretch, a T11 at the Shoprite LPGA Classic presented by Acer, she missed six cuts as well.
“When you’re not fully there physically, it affects your mental game, your focus,” she said. “I feel like my game has been good, I would see it, and then all of a sudden it would just disappear again. It was really frustrating.”
Gal is not the only professional golfer to struggle with Lyme disease. Six-time PGA Tour winner and major champion Jimmy Walker was diagnosed with Lyme in April of 2017 and took five months off after defending his PGA Championship title.
“Basically feels like you got the flu,” Walker said at the time. “No strength. Just got nothing. And it comes and goes in waves. You never know when it’s going to pop up.”
Gal’s first missed event due to the medical leave was the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open.
In reflecting on the past year battling the disease, Gal has maintained that she believes that all things happen for a reason.
“I think for many years, results have defined me as a person,” she said. “They haven’t this year. Even though I haven’t played well, I don’t think of myself any less and I’m so grateful for that. Our identity is so tied with our results. I was really able to let go of that and that’s been amazing.”
That perspective is allowing her to take care of herself going forward. In her downtime this fall, Gal plans to visit her friends and host her two charity events.
Gal does not believe the disease will affect her 2020 schedule.
“I know that long term I’m going to be fine,” she said. “I’m looking forward to coming back towards the beginning of the year and playing a full schedule.”