Las Vegas Golfer Gulbis ‘Living the Dream’ at Women’s British Open

Image August 3, 2007–Fresh off her first LPGA Tour win, Natalie Gulbis opened with a 73 in the first round of the Ricoh's British Open. Obviously she is thrilled with the win, but she quickly was back focused on winning more events, and the continuation of the fine-tuning of her swing. Before the Open, she sat down and spoke at length about all things Natalie. "It's like living in a dream," Gulbis said about her win. "It's always been a dream for me to win an event and to be able to actually accomplish a goal or a dream. It's so much fun. Winning an LPGA event has always been a goal of mine, and to actually be able to accomplish my goal is huge and I've been really excited for the last few days, and it was a great moment for me." Read on for the complete transcript of the press conference.

Other Las Vegas golfers in the field include Natalie Gulbis, who shot a 73 in the first round, and Charlotte Mayorkas, who shot an opening 75, and 19-year old In-Bee Park who opened with a 69 but struggled to a second-round 79.

Park, one of the new young LPGA Tour sensations who lives in Las Vegas, was once again challenging to win a major championship. Entering the second round at the Ricoh Women's British Open, she had fired a 69, matching her first round earlier this year at the US Women's Open, and was only two shots behind leader Lorena Ochoa. Park specifically moved to Las Vegas to play and practice on some of the best golf courses in Las Vegas. "I'm delighted," Park, who just turned 19, said after the round. "I had one bogey and five birdies. There was not that much wind out there and I was able to work with the wind. I putted very well. I think the putter was the big key for me." Unfortunately, Park struggled to a second round 79 to fall way back.

BRIAN ROBIN:  Take us through the last few days.  I bet your e‑mail and cell phone probably got filled up really quickly by how many people were rooting for you to finally break through.  Talk about that a little if you would.

NATALIE GULBIS:  It did.  It's great.  It's different because I'm not in the United States and the phone doesn't work quite as well.  It's a little bit harder to call, so I have gotten quite a few emails and text messages.

It's been great here because today was my first day not only to play St. Andrews, but to be out in front of the players and be around them and everybody has been coming up to me and giving me a hug and congratulating me.  I've just been running on adrenaline for a couple of days since the moment I made that putt.

BRIAN ROBIN:  Let's talk about St. Andrews and playing in the Ricoh Women's British Open.  This is a tournament that everybody has been looking forward almost since the moment they announced it.  Talk about your feelings of playing in the Ricoh Women's British Open and St. Andrews, where I'm sure you've heard plenty of stories over the years.

NATALIE GULBIS:  It is huge.  Today, first off for me personally, to be able to play this golf course, I've seen it so many times in major event on TV and watched Tiger win here and all of these players play here; and to be able to play the same hole and be in the same bunkers that they were in, and I walked over the bridge today.  I mean, I have a picture of Jack Nicklaus in my office standing on that bridge, and I got to stand on that bridge today.  It's really, really special.

For golf, women's golf and the LPGA Tour, this is really big, because this is the first golf course ever made and they have never had a women's event here on such a prestigious golf course.  It's breaking a little bit of a sexual barrier having the women's event here.  Since they announced it, we've been really excited and I can't believe it's here.

Q.  I've been following you since you were 14 years old, Gal.

NATALIE GULBIS:  Thank you.

Q.  I wanted to make an observation which you may say, where the question, and the question will come at the end.  At first, you're always great to watch.  You have great rapport with the crowd and you're steadily becoming more poised and confident.  At Evian, you seemed much more focused, determined, and actually sure of the outcome in the matter of Annika.  Now, that's how it appeared to me from the outside.  How accurately does that match the way you felt inside

NATALIE GULBIS:  I think that I feel that way ‑‑ I've felt that way a lot of times when I've gotten into the hunt and you know that you only had nine holes to play and you have a chance to win.

Q. What was a little bit different for me at Evian and in France was it was a little bit quieter because I was not in the United States, which the fans were great, but it was just a little bit different.

 Q.  Which allowed you to concentrate more?

NATALIE GULBIS:  Oh, no, no, no.  I don't know if I couldn't interact with them ‑‑ I interacted with them as best I could, but there was a language barrier so it was a little bit harder.  I only know like three French words, and it's usually just ‘thank you.’

Q.  What about the point I was trying to get at as to whether you've had this greater sense of fulfillment; that it would actually occur, instead of being another frustration.

NATALIE GULBIS:  No, they haven't been frustrations.  I would say they have been learning experiences along the way, because I knew I would win a tournament, and you try to learn a few things from each time you are in the hunt.  And I've learned every single time that I've been in it, and this time, I just ‑‑ it was my time.

Q.  I read your comments after the tournament, can you talk a little bit about the role that Cristie Kerr and your caddie played as you were waiting to see if you were in the playoff or getting ready for the playoff?

NATALIE GULBIS:  They were great.  I was pretty amped, obviously, coming off the 18th green.  I had a lot of adrenaline and I'm an emotional player and I had a lot of energy running through me.

I was frustrated when I walked off because I felt that this was my chance to win the event, and I was not able to make birdie on 18 to really secure a spot as leader in the clubhouse.  Even though I was, I wanted that extra shot really bad.

Typically after I round, I sign autographs and I do media, and I wasn't really sure if there was going to be a playoff or there wasn't.  And Cristie and Greg were really cool because they let me vent to them my frustrations and once that was done, they said:  OK, that's it.  You might have to go to a playoff now so let's go to the next mode. And that's basically ‑‑ they helped me make the transition from being frustrated not birdieing the last hole, so now I might get another chance at it and I need to prepare for that.  And I was very fortunate to have them there to help me through that.

Q.  How proud was your dad with this win, knowing how close you and your dad are?

NATALIE GULBIS:  You know, I haven't got to see him yet.  He was actually in the United States, so it will be great to see him.  I'll get to see him after the British Open. My mom was actually over here with me this week, and my dad was at home, and the time difference is really weird, too.  Because when I was playing, I had a couple ‑‑ somebody called and it was like 5 AM and they were like, "Hey, Natalie has a one‑shot lead."  This is my father telling me this.  Then he said when it came close to 18, he couldn't watch it on TV, and he wasn't there, so he said he just stayed ‑‑ he's got like his favorite chair.  He was staying at my house in Vegas and he was just sitting in his chair waiting and waiting for the cell phone to ring. And my mom called him when I was doing the awards ceremony and was like, "Hey, Natalie won!  Natalie won!" And he was like, "Are you serious?  No, you've got to be pulling my leg, you're serious"? And she was like, "Listen," and they were just about to hand me the trophy, so he got to hear that. After I got to do my speech I grabbed somebody's BlackBerry and called my dad, and he was so excited. Sorry, that was kind of a long answer.

Q.  You talked about walking over that bridge at St. Andrews that you saw Nicklaus, all of us saw Nicklaus; curious if you can elaborate on your thoughts while you were standing on that bridge, and maybe take it a step further, sort of what it means for women's golf in terms of where it goes next.  Obviously it breaks through a barrier, but where does it take the game looking forward?

NATALIE GULBIS:  It definitely breaks a barrier, because this is the first golf course ever made. There is a lot of tradition there, and it's really exciting that the LPGA is going to be part of the tradition and really the start and the birth of golf.  It's a really big deal to have, you know, women in the clubhouse and just the LPGA playing at St. Andrews and them hosting a major event. For me, I've always wanted to play St. Andrews, and I've always wanted to see that bunker on 17, which actually looks a lot more mild, the one David Duval was in, and once you get in it, it really is that bad and you've got to stay out of it. On 18, you see that bridge, and I remember it from the picture; that was the first thing that kind of flashed in my mind is that picture and actually getting to stand on that.  And I actually got to stand in the same pose that he did for a couple of pictures, and it's really cool.  And every single player stops on that bridge to take pictures.  It's one of the most recognizable spots in golf, so it's really cool.

Q.  Today you had a practice round, that was your first round at St. Andrews?

NATALIE GULBIS:  Yeah, this morning, I played at 6:30, since I have been way excited about my win, I've had a little bit of a hard time sleeping, so I played St. Andrews at 6:30 this morning by myself with my caddie.  It was so quiet and so peaceful and it was great.

Q.  What were the conditions?

NATALIE GULBIS:  They were not too bad.  I actually started the day in a skirt and long sleeves, and by about the third hole I was in full rain gear.  So that's St. Andrews for you with wind and elements.  It's a great golf course.

Q.  Your win at Evian; were you ever concerned about whether that would ever come or not and pardon the reference, but were you concerned about ever being considered the Anna Kournikova of golf?

NATALIE GULBIS:  No, not at all, and actually that has not been asked yet (today).

Being an athlete, you try to win every week, and it's always a test of your patience when you're trying to win and you haven't won yet.  And I knew that my time was coming as long as I kept doing the right things, as long as I kept to what my goals were and kept to the game plan, and kept working hard on my swing.  I always had the belief that I would win, and it happened.  It was great.  It was a little bit longer than I thought it would take and a little bit shorter than you think it would take, too.

Q.  Pebble Beach is down the road, you're at St. Andrews this year; we assume that Augusta National is out of the mix for the LPGA.  What would be the other golf courses that you've dreamed about competing on?

NATALIE GULBIS:  Well, Pebble Beach is my favorite golf course and I've played some events there.  I know there's going to be a U.S. Women's Open there in 2014, so that's going to be pretty spectacular. I think Augusta would definitely be one of those golf courses, but I think St. Andrews has kind of closed the book on that.  It's the first golf course made, and it's the start for us.  So this is a big week.

Q.  When players first win, often they will go on a bit of a winning streak.  I'm just wondering, how might this win change your game, your outlook, your confidence in the next few weeks?

NATALIE GULBIS:  I think what the win will do, I learned a lot from last week.  I learned a lot about my preparation.  I learned a lot in believing in what I always thought to be a good routine and a good practice session and what was good for me, and it actually solidifies what I thought was a good tournament week for me.

I pretty much stick to my routine and I work very hard and I practice, but you always kind of question, should I practice a little bit more; should I practice a little bit less; should I spend a little extra time chipping?  So I'm really going to stay dialed in with what worked last week and continue on with that for a while.

Q.  Has the players' attitude toward you change or do you think it might change now that you're a winner?

NATALIE GULBIS:  I don't know.  Today was pretty cool.  All of the players came up to me ‑‑ one of the first players to come up to me was Karrie Webb.  They actually ran today. So I was on, you know, different holes and we're here at St. Andrews and I had players that came and ran up to me and it was just so cool.  Every player that I was kind of in contact with, it didn't matter who they were.  They have been fantastic; Annika, my great friends on Tour, my teammate Lorena Ochoa and their families, it's just been a great response.  That's what the LPGA is ‑‑ you know, people that I've looked up to are excited for me, and that's a really amazing feeling.

Q.  As you're coming to this first inaugural Arkansas tournament, have you thought about what it will be like to be introduced as champion of the Evian Masters or an LPGA Tour winner now?

NATALIE GULBIS:  Greg, my caddie, said that I get introduced as that.  I think it's going to be a little bit weird the first time.  I've always been introduced as my name and the city I'm from.  I've enjoyed every minute of it and it's so much more than I thought it would be and I'm just going to enjoy every little kickback that I get from the rest of the year.

Q.  A forward‑looking question.  Are you planning to come to the Longs Drug things in Blackhawk in September?

NATALIE GULBIS:  Yes, I am.

Q.  Hope to see you there.

NATALIE GULBIS:  Definitely.  That was actually my first LPGA event.

Q.  Last year you came but you didn't play.

NATALIE GULBIS:  I know, I didn't play.  I withdrew before I was on the tee box.

Q.  Pretty disappointed.  We'll look forward to it for damn sure.

NATALIE GULBIS:  I'll be back.

Q.  You mentioned Pebble Beach; as exciting as St. Andrews is, if you can look forward a little bit, what do you think about the possibility, and it sounds like obviously it's going to happen in six or seven years of playing Pebble Beach in competition.

NATALIE GULBIS:  Pebble Beach for me is just my favorite golf course.  It's a great combination of history, of absolute beauty, because you've got the panoramic view of the ocean, and just a really good, tough test of golf.  And being from California, that's kind of our prize golf course and that's the golf course that everybody wants to play. So being from the United States and from California, that's a big golf course for us.

Q.  How often have you played it, recreation, what memories do you have of being there?

NATALIE GULBIS:  I played a junior tournament there.  There was a tournament you could qualify if you won so many junior events, you could play in that event after Christmas when I was playing junior golf.  I played in a really cool event that was a combination of LPGA, PGA and Champions Tour players where we play from different tees.

Q.  The Callaway?

NATALIE GULBIS:  The Callaway.  It's been called the Spalding; the Callaway.  I played in that a couple of times.  And I played it casually, too.  One of my sponsors has a home there, Outback, so I try to get down there whenever I can, because it's really just a beautiful golf course.

Q.  Have you played well?

NATALIE GULBIS:  I have played well there.

BRIAN ROBIN:  You mentioned about playing St. Andrews, talk about how St. Andrews sets up for your game and how you played today in regards to the course.

NATALIE GULBIS:  St. Andrews, what's great about St. Andrews is you have to ‑‑ what I really like about British Opens is that's one unique week on Tour where you have to learn so many shots.  And for me, I'm a student of the game; there's so much that I need to learn about the game of golf, so today, it's fun to watch other players try new spots, it's fun to experiment with new shots. Today for the first time I putted a putt from 100 yards.  There's a green that's 100 yards long; that's 309 feet.  Usually when I do my drills, I stop practicing at 100 feet, and I thought, am I going to chip on the green?  Like what am I going to do?  So I spent 20 minutes today learning how to putt from 70, 80 and 90 yards, putting from off the green.  Usually I only putt from five or ten yards off the green.  And I saw Beth Daniel today putt from 60 yards off.  She was with Meg Mallon and I went up to them and said, "Why are you guys putting from there?" And they were like, "Try it."  So I'm looking forward to getting on that same hole and trying that same shot.

BRIAN ROBIN:  What hole was it?

NATALIE GULBIS:  It was 18.  I was actually with Betsy King and we were talking about the Solheim Cup and I said, "Do you see what Beth's doing?  She's putting from like 50 yards out, like 50 yards off the green."  She's assistant captain for the Solheim and I said, "Why are you putting from 50 yards out?"  And she's a Hall of Famer, I've tried to take as much advice from Hall of Famers as I can. And she said, "Well, if you hit a chip shot, they release way to the back of the green."  It's just fun to learn new stuff.

Q.  Speaking of St. Andrews, the local caddies over there know that course pretty darned well.  Have you talked to any of them?

NATALIE GULBIS:  We're hiring ‑‑ tomorrow I'm playing in the afternoon and Greg has hired a local caddie to pick his brain for the four or five hours we'll be out there.

Q.  Real smart.

NATALIE GULBIS:  Yeah, so we will be doing that.  We found one of the best ones we could get our hands on.  He's been caddying out there forever, like 17 or 20 years or something.  So we're going to go out there and hopefully learn a few things from him.

Q.  It's a place full of secrets; you'll have to pry them open.

NATALIE GULBIS:  I'll say.  There's some holes you get out, you're like, where am I going to hit it.

Q.  Like No. 12.

NATALIE GULBIS:  12, 16, 17.

Q.  Where are you staying over there?

NATALIE GULBISAnnika and I are staying in a house right off the 18th green.

Q.  Do you think your victory will finally affirm the fact that you're not just a good‑looking golfer, but you can actually play quality golf?  Has that always been a concern of yours, that people would just appreciate you for your looks instead of your game?

NATALIE GULBIS:  Not really at all.  I would say 90 percent of the media, probably more like 95 per cent of the stories and the things that I've read and the feedback I've gotten from media has been really positive.  They have always ‑‑ I've always gotten the question associated with Anna, but I've also gotten almost right in the next line or that same paragraph:  'But we know how hard she works and we know it's going to be when she wins, not if she wins.'  And I think I have the media to thank for that.  They have been great to me in my time as a professional athlete.

Q.  Also if you have time, play Kingsbarns this week.

NATALIE GULBIS:  We're staying with friends and they played Carnoustie today and they are playing all of these great golf courses.  There's so many of them around here. I have my hands full with St. Andrews right now.

Q.  Talk about some of your swing changes.

NATALIE GULBIS:  Some of my changes I've been working on for four or five years.  There's times I do them well, but when I got injured it really forced me to do them.  Because it was either you can swing the club this way, or you cannot play at all.  There was too much pain with the swing that I had been using.  So it forced me to change my swing and to work on my posture and to be more diligent in what I was doing when I was practicing. So far my swing is getting a little better and better every week, and it was great last week and it was pretty good the week before, too.  So it's been good.

Q.  Is the physical problem, could you describe exactly what it is that you have encountered that created the pain?

NATALIE GULBIS:  Yeah, I was using a swing aid, which was a weighted club that I was swinging because I wanted to get more swing speed and I was swinging about a hundred times a day every day religiously.  And my back was kind of just ‑‑ it just felt like it was fatigued so I just backed off on it a little bit and thought it was just muscle soreness.  Just the pain started getting worse and worse with every single round. I pulled out of an event and went home and I had an MRI and they said, yeah, you need to sit down for a while and I was like, I really had blown out some things back there.  And I sat out for a couple of weeks and had some really great therapist, with Physiotherapy, a company that travels the Tour.  They have helped me slowly start to get back.

Q.  You mentioned sponsors before.  Has anybody come on board since you won in France?

NATALIE GULBIS:  No, not in the two days ‑‑ not even two days.  (Laughing). But you know, this has been a great way ‑‑ my sponsors have believed in me for five, six years.  I've had great sponsors, TaylorMade and Adidas have been my sponsors, and it's great for me to be able to give this back to them, too, and for the fans who have been pulling for me for so hard for so long, so it's been great.

Q.  With you and Annika staying together, what do you chat about?

NATALIE GULBIS:  Whatever, cooking, business, a lot of stuff with our business.  We both like to cook.  We're really good friends.  We could be watching a movie; it could be sports.  We're both very, very busy so it's like we're in passing a lot.

BRIAN ROBIN:  Thanks a lot.  We'd like to thank everybody for jumping on this call on such short notice and we'd like to thank Natalie for taking the time to grace us with the great stories about St. Andrews and Pebble Beach and her upcoming adventures in the Ricoh Women's British Open.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.