Natalie Gulbis returns to competition at the JM Eagle LA Championship presented by Plastpro

Natalie Gulbis returns to competition at the JM Eagle LA Championship presented by Plastpro

By Amy Rogers


Natalie Gulbis doesn’t compete on the LPGA Tour as much these days. She joined the LPGA Tour in 2002 but has played a more limited schedule over the past few years. When she does make a rare return to the tour, there is always one topic that her fellow players want to chat about: the Solheim Cup.


In June 2022, U.S. Solheim Cup Captain Stacy Lewis named Gulbis one of her assistant captains for the September matches in Spain. Gulbis was a three-time member of the U.S. squad and contributed to victorious teams between 2005-2009.


“Every moment that I got with Lexi [Thompson] or with the Kordas, we were talking about Solheim [Cup],” Gulbis said after being named assistant captain. “I played in New York, and both the Kordas were there and Lexi, and so not only am I playing there to get ready for the tournament or play and work on my game, but also I get to have another role.”


And that’s the same balancing act Gulbis will be doing this week as she makes her season debut in Los Angeles, where she received a sponsor exemption to compete in the inaugural JM Eagle LA Championship presented by Plastpro.


Gulbis played just once last season, teaming up with Elizabeth Nagel at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational after undergoing a fourth back surgery. Gulbis wanted to play more last season but says she just didn’t feel physically ready until this year and she hopes she’ll make this week’s start in L.A. the first of several more this season.

“Anyone that's ever had a back issue or back surgery knows it does take longer to come back than you expect,” Gulbis explained while meeting with the media on Wednesday. “I am going to play more events this year, and yeah, the Tour is just doing so good. It's hard to not want to play some of these events that are close to home.”

Gulbis lives in Newport Beach, which is about an hour drive south of this week’s venue at Wilshire Country Club, where she competed when the LPGA first began hosting an event at the club in 2018 and 2019.

“Wilshire Country Club is one of my favorite golf courses,” Gulbis said. “It's one of those golf courses that you never get bored on. There's so many different shots that you have to hit. It's a really fun, cool club, right by West Hollywood, L.A., and a couple miles from Beverly Hills, but the golf course has the fastest greens, and they're really fun because there's a ton of break.”

Gulbis is excited to be getting back into competitive mode. There’s nothing she says she loves more. And while she admits to not having her A-game this week, she says she has been working on it and did compete in an event in Portugal earlier this season in preparation for her return to the tour.


But plenty of other activities have kept Gulbis busy, too, like her work with the Boys and Girls Club in Nevada and of course, her new role as assistant Solheim Cup captain. That’s one of the big reasons why Gulbis will compete more this year on the LPGA Tour as she continues to learn the intricacies of the players who could soon qualify for the U.S. team.


"Im following these players to see what their games are like, how they would match up, spending a little bit of extra time with them during tournament weeks, it's just been a really cool process," Gulbis said about her role as assistant captain to Lewis. "Last night I got to the pro-am party. I think we spent at least an hour just talking about all the things that you would expect the captains would be talking about, pairings and players and players that won last week. It's just so cool to be a part of it, and I can't wait to go to Spain in the fall."


Thursday, Gulbis makes an exciting return to competition in Los Angeles wearing two hats: as both a player and a captain. And she’s looking forward to catching up with the players she’s gotten to know over more than two decades competing on the LPGA Tour. There’ll be plenty to chat about. And, lots to say about this year’s Solheim Cup.

April 26, 2023
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