NCAA champion Rachel Heck is also an incredible artist

·5 min read

"Art has provided me a perfect outlet when golf and life become a little too much. When I’m working on a piece, I sink into it and I can’t think about anything else. It’s my little sanctuary."

Rachel Heck feels drawn to many things in life. She’s played golf as long as she can remember, turning into a shining star at Stanford University, where she will start her sophomore year in the fall. She discovered her passion for the military as a Cardinal freshman and began training at the San Jose State campus for ROTC in the Air Force division. And now that NCAA athletes can benefit from their name, image and likeness, Rachel can finally share another long-time passion to the world - her art.

“I’ve always had a passion for art,” said Heck. “Even was I was little, I would keep a sketchbook, take art lessons, and draw and paint whenever I could.”

Heck as a child smiling in front of her artwork.
Heck as a child smiling in front of her artwork.

No one in Rachel’s family uses art as an outlet like she does. In fact, no one in her family is particularly interested in art. Her father, Robert Heck, works as an orthopedic surgeon in Memphis, Tennessee and her mother, Stacy, worked as a physical therapist before having children. Their eldest daughter, Abby, just graduated from Notre Dame and will attend medical school at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and Anna, their youngest daughter who is a sophomore in high school, is interested in engineering and medicine.

But her parents and siblings do know how important it is to have other interests, especially in a sport like golf. Abby played golf for Notre Dame and Anna plays golf on her high school team at St. Agnes Academy.

“I need art the most when golf starts to control my emotions,” said Heck. “Art has provided me a perfect outlet when golf and life become a little too much. When I’m working on a piece, I sink into it and I can’t think about anything else. It’s my little sanctuary.”

“I think if you made golf your whole life and if you lived and died by every hole that you played, then that’s kind of putting your happiness not in your control,” Heck’s mother told WREG Memphis news in late June. “So, we think it’s important for [the kids] to have other interests and other hobbies. The other day [Anna] had a bad round, and we were in the car. We said, ‘Anna it’s OK, it doesn’t matter.’ Then she goes, ‘if it doesn’t matter, then why am I working so hard?’ You know what you’re right, it does matter. It matters a lot, but it’s not everything.”

Rachel - the Heck’s middle child - had a historic year at Stanford University. She won six tournaments in her spring semester, including a post-season sweep – winning the Pac-12 Championships, the NCAA Stanford regional and the NCAA Championship individual titles. She qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club, where she finished T-35 and is currently ranked No. 2 on the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR).

The environment at Stanford with her team, her coaches, Anne Walker and Maddie Sheils, and endless support from her parents, opened the door to a new kind of freedom for Rachel because so many things in her life mattered more than a golf score.

That didn’t mean golf was never difficult. It’s always difficult – especially when competing at the highest level and striving for impeccable achievement.

Rachel was “devastated” after missing the cut by one shot at the Marathon LPGA Classic, where she received an exception after winning the NCAA Individual title. But she knew she had two choices. She could let her second-round, 3-over-par 74 consume her, or she could use art as a way to self-reflect.

Heck decided to sketch her friend, Reagan Killebrew (her boyfriend’s sister), who just started basic training at West Point, on the drive back from Ohio to Tennessee.

“Giving into those [negative] emotions was only going to make them worse," Rachel said, "so I decided to put my time and energy into sketching and creating my art account.”

And then raindelayz was born – her new Instagram that displays her artwork.

Her mother helped her think of the name. “We wanted something that had the vibe of ‘this is what I do when I’m not on the course,’” Rachel said.

The name was catchy and relatable to the golf world, since every player has experienced the dreadful hours of rain delays.

What allowed Heck to promote her artwork through social was the NCAA interim policy that allowed student-athletes from all three divisions to monetize their name, image and likeness. The new policy went into effect on July 1 and Rachel started her account nine days later.

“I had always wanted to share my artwork, but the old rules made it too tricky,” said Heck. “I had honestly forgotten about that desire until I was talking to Coach Walker and joked about how I could sell my work for more than some other deals I could sign.”

And then her coach had an epiphany. “Yes, that’s it Rachel. That’s exactly it,” Walker told her.

“We then talked about how I could start sharing my art, and I’ve been stoked since then,” said Heck.

As simple as it sounds, Rachel paints what makes her happy. “Whether it be a flower, a picture of a loved one, or even something completely random, if I see something that makes me happy, chances are I’ll want to draw it," she said. "I spend hours focusing on every detail of it and never fail to find peace and joy.”

Most of her work takes weeks and months to complete. First, she sketches the design and then decides how she wants to fill the picture. Heck’s skill in art extends from water-color to acrylic to cross hatching – an artistic technique used to create tonal or shading effects by drawing closely spaced parallel lines.

Heck continues to defy what people think is the rule to success – you must pursue one thing and one thing only. During her dazzling spring season, she woke up at 4 a.m. for ROTC training and also spent hours sketching, painting and crafting beautiful artwork. And she doesn’t plan on selling her work just for her own financial means, but using her art for a greater cause.

“Now I’m excited to figure out the best purpose for my artwork," she said. "I haven’t decided on anything concrete yet, but I would love to use my work to benefit a veterans' charity."