Natalie Gulbis, one of golf's most popular players, is celebrating the big 3-0 today – at Disneyland, of all places.
Despite what I'd call an unorthodox swing, she was a sensation as a junior – she won the California Women's Amateur Championship at age 14 and, at 17, she became the youngest player ever to Monday-qualify for an LPGA Tour event (a record that Michelle Wie eventually broke). She was the medalist at the 1998 U.S. Women's Amateur, and won four times during her college career at the University of Arizona.
Gulbis made it through Q-School on her first try and has become a solid LPGA Tour performer over the years. She's won more than $4.6 million in her decade on the circuit, and finished 42nd on the money list last year with three top-10s. She only has one career win, but it was a pretty big one – the 2007 Evian Masters.
And while she is known far and wide for her calendar-girl looks, I'd add that she is under-appreciated for her attitude and her diligence. She is as consistently positive and pleasant as any player I've ever been around, and she does as much for her sponsors, her tour and other charities as anyone. Plus, I swear, she leads the world by a mile in the number of photos taken with fans.
So for all you do for golf, Natalie, here's hoping this milestone birthday is the beginning of a career year.