LPGA Tour star and model Natalie Gulbis will not only be representing Myrtle Beach golf management company National Golf Management on the road in 2014, she’ll also be a part-time resident on the Grand Strand this year.
And she expects to continue her frequent visits to the area in the coming years.
The California native and Las Vegas resident is making Pawleys Plantation – where she has been granted honorary member status – her East Coast and second home. She’ll regularly be staying in a villa at the Pawleys Island golf resort.
“Over the next couple years I think I’ll be spending a lot of time there,” Gulbis said last week. “A good chunk of the schedule is on the East Coast and I’ve been looking for a place to practice and play during off weeks. I needed a home away from the West Coast, and there are such a lot of good golf courses in a small area there and I’m a beach girl, so it’s the perfect place for me.”
Gulbis has a one-year agreement to be the spokesperson for NGM and its 22 Strand courses, golf package businesses and accommodations at Pawleys Plantation. She’s taking part in a sweepstakes through MyrtleBeachTrips.com that will have her eating dinner and playing a round of golf at Pawleys Plantation in late fall with eight winners, and she’ll be wearing the Myrtle Beach Trips logo on the sleeve of her golf shirts in competition.
NGM representatives and Gulbis – who said she visited Myrtle Beach multiple times as a child with her parents because of the multitude of golf offerings – anticipate the partnership extending beyond 2014.
Gulbis appeared in Sports Illustrated’s 2012 swimsuit issue, had a Golf Channel reality show in the mid-2000s, was a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice in 2009 and had an annual calendar for a few years. She is now dedicated to supporting a Las Vegas Boys and Girls Club in her name.
“The Boys and Girls Club takes up most of my free time, and charity events that support The Boys and Girls Club,” Gulbis said. “And I play a lot more now. We play more and travel more internationally.”
An expanded 33-event LPGA Tour schedule in 2014 begins next week in the Bahamas and concludes in late November with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., and Gulbis expects to play in between 18 and 23 tournaments.
“I don’t remember when we’ve had a schedule this good,” said Gulbis, who is in her 13th year on the LPGA Tour. “There are more domestic tournaments, larger purses and really the flow of the schedule is good.”
She still hasn’t committed to playing in the tour’s third and fourth events in Thailand and Singapore in late February. Last February, she contracted malaria while playing in Asia, spent a week in a hospital in Singapore and missed more than a month of the season.
“I’m weighing whether or not I’m going to play over there,” Gulbis said. “It’s very difficult in your 13th year whether you want to play outside the United States.
“… I stayed in a hospital in Singapore for a week and they took care of me. I’d like to go back and thank the people who took care of me.”
Gulbis said she didn’t fully regain her strength until June. “It’s exciting to start the season healthy again, but that happens when you travel,” she said. “That’s the way it goes.”
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.