The Pinup: Natalie Gulbis
THE BUZZ After earning her card at the LPGA qualifying school at nineteen,
Natalie Gulbis soon became known as the Anna Kournikova of golf. She posed for sexy pictures,
published pinup calendars and dated Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Unfortunately,
also like Kournikova, she failed to win. But this year her game has come around. At press
time, she still hadn't won, but she had recorded nine top tens in 2005, including a tie for
fourth at the U.S. Women's Open, and was holding steady at sixth on the money list.
THE Backstory Gulbis, 22, grew up in California, broke par at ten and at fourteen became the youngest ever to Monday-qualify for an LPGA event (a record since broken by Michelle Wie). She also won the California Women's Amateur at fourteen. While Gulbis was still in high school, she and her father, a brawny retired probation officer with hair almost to his waist, logged 130,000 miles traveling to tournaments in the family pickup, sometimes sleeping in tents.
Bonus Points In Gulbis's single year of college golf, at Arizona, she won four times and made first-team all-American. The next summer, after finishing thirty-fourth at the U.S. Open, she turned pro and finished third at qualifying school on her first try. With Butch Harmon's coaching, Gulbis continues to learn more shots and gain consistency. She currently ranks second in birdies and third in rounds under par on the LPGA Tour.
Quotes "I'd rather be compared to Annika Sorenstam [than to Anna Kournikova], but that's okay."
The Future Gulbis's clutch, confidence-inspiring 3-1 performance at this year's Solheim Cup could prove to be a turning point in her career.
The All-American: Brittany Lang
THE BUZZ When Brittany Lang tied for second place with Morgan Pressel
at this summer's U.S. Women's Open, Dan Brooks, the women's golf coach at Duke, could only
dream of what might have been. Lang, the star of his 2005 national championship team, had
decided shortly before the Open to forgo her final two years at college to turn pro, just
a few weeks after Pressel—who had verbally committed to Duke—changed her mind
about attending college altogether. Lang's strong finishes, including a sixth, in her first
two LPGA tournaments after the Open make the long-hitting Texan's decision to go pro look
THE Backstory Lang, 20, grew up in McKinney, Texas, also the hometown of the golfing Kuehne family. Her brother, Luke, played at Arkansas and is now her frequent caddie. She started playing golf at nine and compiled a stellar record on the AJGA circuit, including eight wins —at one point, four in a row.
Bonus Points In 2003, the summer after she finished high school, Lang won the prestigious North & South Amateur and, the following week, the Western Amateur. She then advanced to the second round of the U.S. Women's Amateur. At Duke, Lang won six titles, including the ACC championship in both her freshman and sophomore years, and was twice named a first-team all-American.
Quotes "I loved Duke, but now I'm excited to see what I can do at the next level."
The Future So far, her effort to win an LPGA Tour card is on track; she and seventeen-year-old Japanese prodigy Ai Miyazato were co-medalists at the first stage of qualifying.