Zoe-Beth Brake opens her mouth and out pours a lilting accent as lush as the landscape in her native New Zealand.

As the Ohio State senior speaks, however, it is not her voice but her eyes that tell the story — not how they look but what they see.

As an art major who will graduate Sunday, Brake views the world through color, shape and contrast. During her career as an OSU varsity golfer, she visually painted her way around the course, shaping shots and exercising artistic values such as line, angle and texture.

“I’m a very visual person, so when I’m on the golf course I would rather have to hit a fade around a tree to the green than have a straight shot, because I can visualize it better,” Brake said. “Of course, I always want to be in the middle of the fairway. What I’m saying is I can see my way to the pin.”

Brake is a rarity, and not only because she pictures a Picasso while golfing. She traveled almost 8,300 miles from her home on New Zealand's North Island to attend Ohio State in 2013, and now hits the finish line — spring commencement — as not just someone who survived but thrived in the university setting. Some students never make it this far. Brake came from afar and is about to make it.

“It definitely has been a positive experience,” she said. “I’ve learned so much and developed my art.”

In some ways, Brake is a square golf peg in a round hole. At 25, she completes her 4 1/2 years of college as an older soul than most other graduates. But what more set her apart was her decision to play golf while majoring in art. In 26 years as Ohio State women’s golf coach, Therese Hession has had only one other art major on the roster. Of the 1,089 student-athletes at OSU, only 13 major in art.

Brake enjoys the challenge of thinking creatively on the course, which explains her belief that taking the shortest distance between two points is no fun. “A straight shot is boring,” she said, smiling.

A standard trajectory to a college degree was not her style, either. Brake’s background reads like an action movie. She grew up on a small farm in Whakatane, where, when she wasn’t painting and golfing, she was shearing sheep. Or shooting rabbits. Or hunting wild pigs with only a knife. Or deep diving in the Pacific Ocean without scuba gear. Or bartending. Or traveling to Japan, Bali, China, Scotland and the United States. Or spending three years in the Royal New Zealand Navy.

“Our kids were definitely not wrapped in cotton wool,” said Brake’s mother, Janet, who with her husband, Trev, raised two children who keep wearing them out.

“Trev panics mildly when Zoe’s coming home, as he has to do this and do that and take her fishing and diving. He gets no time to rest,” she added.

As for Zoe, the blonde daredevil seldom backs down from leaping headfirst into life.

“You can throw anything at me. Nothing scares me. Maybe just spiders. And bogeys.”

The competitive Kiwi paused while munching on a hamburger, the said, “But I wish I could be on the golf course how I am when I’m painting.”

Even as Brake finds peace while picturing golf shots, she becomes overly piqued when they do not. If only she could quiet her mind from tee to green the way she does from palette to canvas.

“When I golf there is a lot of chatter in my head,” she said. “When I’m making my art I’m not thinking about anything. I can be in my studio and plug headphones in and just go. Maybe it is kind of a way to chill out and do something I love.”

The more-serene side of Brake’s personality is found in her three-person apartment, where nearly 50 paintings and drawings are stacked into every nook and cranny. The sketches and paintings depict everything from scenes of daily life in New Zealand to modern free form, mostly from photographic references.  

Hession is amazed at her player’s artwork.

“My jaw drops when I see it,” she said. “Everything she turns out is amazing.”

Ohio State art professor Laura Lisbon sees synergy between Brake’s art and golf; both require an ability to see the invisible into existence. But Brake’s senior exhibition, which is on display through today in a public gallery at Urban Arts Space, is heavy on landscapes.

“They are rather surreal, no figures in them. They look a bit like stage sets,” Lisbon explained. “Zoe is out in landscape all the time. You think about golf courses, and they are mostly rolling, empty landscapes. It’s important not to map everything against each other, golf vs. painting. But the way Zoe uses light and expansive space is not surprising.”

Brake pointed out another similarity between her two passions: “By the end of the day there could be a lot of junk or a lot of good stuff,” she said, smiling.

Mostly, it has been the latter.

“I got a pretty cool compliment from one of the big people in the art department, who told me, ‘You could go anywhere (for grad school),’” Brake said.

Brake chooses Jackson Pollock as the artist whose abstract drip-painting style most closely matches her own energy and experiences.

“His paintings are all over the show,” she said. “I wouldn’t say my life is exactly (like that), but I’ve done a lot of different things.”

And there is more to do. Brake’s goals include playing on the LPGA Tour and having her artwork shown in a New York City gallery. After graduating Sunday, she plans to work for a year before attending graduate school. But she also hopes to find enough financial backing to turn professional in golf.

Whatever happens, she will bring a golfer’s go-for-it mentality and an artist’s peace to the project.