The Sacramento, Calif. native spent the first few events of the season bedridden after contracting malaria during the Tour’s stop in Thailand. Though disappointed in the time away from the Tour, Gulbis was determined to have a positive outlook on the situation.
“I was more confident getting back to golf after being sick than I was when I hurt my back and had surgery in 2010,” said Gulbis. “I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play golf again after that. But when I was sick, the doctors were confident that I was going to be able to come back, it was just going to take time. It was tough to be patient.”
Gulbis returned to the LPGA Tour at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April after sitting out the entire month of March. It wasn’t until the Wegmans LPGA Championship in June that Gulbis was feeling completely back to health.
The overwhelming support from her fellow pros, devoted fans and tournament sponsors was encouraging to Gulbis, who received the warmest homecoming back in April.
“That was definitely the highlight of the year, that first week coming back,” said Gulbis said of her return. “It was very special to come back after being sick. Just to see how close all the Tour players are and how much they care about each other and how much they care for me. They weren’t just happy to see me but also excited to see I was healthy.”
But Gulbis had much more to beam about upon her return, for during the offseason she received one of the greatest birthday gifts she could ever receive.
The 30-year-old has made it known that the Boys & Girls Club holds a special place in her heart. From the time she started volunteering at the club as a teen, she knew she would opening her own club when the time was right.
“I had three goals growing up: to join the LPGA Tour, to get married and have a family and also to open up my own Boys & Girls Club,” said Gulbis.
The president of the Boys & Girls Club announced on her birthday that one of her ambitions was finally coming to fruition with the opening of The Natalie Gulbis Boys & Girls Club. It became the 10th club in the Henderson, N.V. area and has already helped more than 200 children since its dedication ceremony in April.
“It was better than anything I had ever accomplished on the golf course,” said Gulbis.
But the good news didn’t stop there.
Gulbis has been floating on cloud nine since accepting a marriage proposal earlier this year from former Yale quarterback and co-founder of Power Balance bracelets, Josh Rodarmel. The two will be hearing wedding bells by the end of 2013.
“I’m very excited to be engaged and to get married, but I’m most excited to be married to Josh and start our life together,” said Gulbis. “Just to have him in my life and start being a wife is the most exciting part.”
For all the delight Gulbis has found off the golf course this year, the 12-year LPGA Tour veteran is eager to return to the site of her first-career victory as the Tour travels to Evian-les-Bains, France this week. Since claiming the 2007 Evian Masters title, Gulbis has continued to find success in France with a season-best tie for fourth at the event last year.
“It’s extra special to go back to that event as a past champion,” said Gulbis. “For me, it’s a pivotal moment in my golf career when I won in 2007. It’s an event that I have such fond memories of and I always enjoy playing over there.”
Gulbis’ favorite stop on the LPGA Tour schedule for not only her first win but also for the elaborate galas, breathtaking views of Lake Geneva and elevated competition, she had always considered the event to have a “major” feel.
“They absolutely spoil us when we go over there,” said Gulbis. “In the years that I’ve played at the event, it really has always had the feel of a major. It’s been the masters for us for so long. With that level purse and the history behind the event, it always gave us a major feel so I’m excited for Evian and fans to have it as a major.”
Happy and healthy, Gulbis hopes to round out the season on an even higher note with solid finishes in the season's final eight events.
"This is a fun part of the year, most of the regular season is over and now we get to look forward to The Evian and our Asia swing," said Gulbis. "There are a lot of great events coming up for me and I’m looking forward to ending this year strong at CME."