Natalie Gulbis has been a golfing phenom since an early age, introduced to the sport before she was five years old. She played her first LPGA event as an amateur at the tender age of 14 and joined the tour as a pro at 18 while attending college. She’s also a part-time model and builds motorcycles with her dad. She has a love of trucks, big cars and classic muscle cars.
What was your first car?
My first car was an ’83 Ford Bronco. It was in college, my second semester. My parents bought me the Bronco.
What color was it?
Navy blue exterior with a tan interior. It was an Eddie Bauer and I loved it. I’ve always liked big trucks and cars.
Was it a full-size Bronco?
Yes. Then, when I turned professional, I bought a Tahoe. A 1999 two-door Chevy Tahoe.
Do you play for the most part now?
Yes, now I just fly. It’s so International. We play more outside the United States than we do inside the United States.
Your two-door Tahoe, did it have a cloth or leather interior?
Cloth. Bright red, big rims, it was really tall. I felt safe in it. I’ve always felt safe in big cars and trucks.
I wondered what happened to it, she seemed to like it so much.
I love those. Great choice.
The next car I bought was on eBay. It was a Harley Davidson truck, a 100th year anniversary truck. I was obsessed with it. It was silver and black. I looked everywhere for it for about four to five months, then found it on eBay. I flew my dad out to Texas and he drove it back to Vegas. I still have it.
Yes. This is actually the first car I’ve had, the Lexus you are shooting today. I’ve had trucks for eight years of being professional; I’ve had an Escalade and an Expedition. I would just keep on changing out big cars and big trucks. I would take my car out on the road to tournaments, but now I won’t. Now we have an International schedule. I used to drive to all of the tournaments, so I always had a big vehicle.
And you sold it?
I kind of turn them over. Sell them or give them to family, but turn them over.
Do you like leasing or owning your vehicles?
Because of the equity factor or the fact that the vehicle is yours and you can do whatever you want to with it?
So I don’t have to make another payment!
(LAUGHTER) Yes, that’s a good thing. How old were you when you got your driver’s license?
I was 16. My parents couldn’t afford to get me a car, so I went to college without one. In my second semester, my parents surprised me with a car for my birthday. That was my 18th birthday. I was a freshman.
What do you drive now?
Now I have a Lexus 350is, which is the car you’re shooting today.
Awesome. How long have you had the Lexus?
A few months. I just sold an Escalade and got it.
How well do you like being in a smaller vehicle?
I love it. It’s so fun having a car. I can’t believe how easy it is to buzz around in it.
It’s easier, but different, if you’re used to sitting up high in trucks. It’s a different feeling. When you used to travel going to tournaments, what was your favorite road trip?
My favorite city in the United States is Los Angeles. I’m from Sacramento, California, but I love L.A. I pretty much like driving all over the U.S. I’ve been cross-country, probably, five times. I spent a lot of time on the road. I’ve been on the road since I was 14 playing in tournaments.
Can you drive a stick shift?
Yes. And now the Lexus that I have has the paddle, so I learned how to drive with the paddle shifter. It’s so much easier than a stick. I learned howto drive a stick a couple years ago. I had a TV show on The Golf Channel and my dream car at that time was a Dodge Viper. I said I wouldn’t buy a sports car until I learned how to drive a stick, so my producers on the show surprised me and brought me a Viper for a weekend, and it was a stick. They actually set it up because they wanted to shoot me learning to drive a stick. I drove it around Vegas all weekend, stalling it out. It was fun. That’s how you learn, though. Usually, you don’t learn on a Viper.
So you were grinding the clutch…screeeeeeeech.
Well, I was doing okay. They started to shoot and said, ‘You’re ready’ and started me out going up a hill.
Yeah, a big old hill.
And to learn on a hill is impossible, especially at a stoplight with a car coming up behind you. You feel like, ‘How am I going to do this?’
And I have another car, a ’68 Mustang Fastback that is in showroom condition. I keep at my parents’ house.
I wish we could have shot that! Sweet!
They don’t drive it much, maybe take it to a show if there’s one nearby. I’ve always liked the old classic Mustangs.
Is it all original or has it been restored?
No, it’s been restored and we put some extra bells and whistles on it.
How long have you had the Mustang?
Five years, but I only drive it when I go home to Sacramento. My parents make sure that it’s kept up because I’m not home very much. I’m on the road 90 percent of the time.
How many miles does it have on it?
About 18,000, not many.
What color is it?
Bright red, Ferrari red. I’m going to put white stripes, racing stripes, over the top next time I go home. I used to go to car shows all the time. You go to different cities, you get to see different cars.
Oh, yeah, get different ideas on how to restore classics. What’s your favorite color combination with cars?
I tend to buy black cars over and over again. I like the blue Viper with the white racing stripes. Definitely, the Mustang I’m putting those stripes on, but I’ve tended to buy black cars for the last seven or eight years.
When you were a teenager, before you got your driver’s license, you probably thought about cars and thought, “Wow I’d like this.’ What was that dream car? Was it a Lamborghini, was it a truck with big rims? What really caught your attention?
A white Lamborghini with tan interior where the doors went up. And I thought the Camaros looked like that — had the same slant, and looked like it. I thought one day I could realistically get that when I became a pro golfer, but I didn’t. Then I set a standard and decided that when I won my first tournament, I would buy a Viper. In 2007, when I did (win), I threw a big party, but I’m not home enough to feel I can have a car like that. Maybe one day, when my life slows down a little bit. I go to car shows, and they have great Lamborghinis and Ferraris at the museum here in Las Vegas.
Isn’t there a Ferrari dealership in one of the hotels here?
Ferrari is inside the Wynn and Lamborghini is inside the Palazzo, but I love classic cars. One of the magazines I get when I travel is the Du Pont Registry. Many athletes love classic cars. My favorite part of Cribs is when they show the cars.
(LAUGHTER) Yeah, it’s funny. When I started this book, I didn’t want all spectacular cars. I wanted some different cars, like Sugar Ray Leonard has a Smart Car out in LA. He’s driving this little bitty white Smart Car all over Los Angeles, it’s hilarious. It’s cool, though. What about car accidents? Ever had a car accident?
No. No car accidents, no speeding tickets, knock on wood.
No speeding tickets?
Nope, no tickets. I do not think I have ever even gotten a parking ticket.
Have you ever been pulled over and talked your way out of a speeding ticket?
One time. I was on my way to the airport about 4:30 one morning to get on a plane to go play a tournament in Singapore, and the officer said, ‘Natalie, where are you going so fast?’ I told him I had to catch a plane to Singapore and he let me go with a warning.
That was nice of him.
Yes. My management team, I think, currently has an over/under on when I’m going to get a ticket in my Lexus.
Would you ever own a hybrid?
Yes, absolutely. I think the next car I get will be a hybrid. They used to be so small, but now that you have choices. I’ll probably get a Lexus hybrid. They’re beautiful and so quiet.
They’re sweet yes. What kind of music do you listen to when you are driving?
A combination. I like classic rock and top 40. Now that I have satellite and regular FM, I’m always changing. It’s easy with a touch screen.
How many cars do you think you’ve owned throughout your life?
That’s pretty sweet. Have you ever looked at another golfer’s car and thought you might need to get what they have?
No. I never see the other golfers’ cars, but I do see celebrities’ cars on TV. All tricked out. I just saw on the last Cribs, Kim Kardashian had a white Range Rover with white seats with pink trim, and pink on the rims iLAUGHTER) ..yeah, but it was custom and it would be nice to have custom stuff.
Leading right into my next question. Speaking of custom, what do you like to modify on your cars when you get them straight from the factory? Is it rims you want first or an upgraded stereo system? What do you find that you’re not happy with completely, as far as factory goes?
I like to upgrade everything. I like it supercharged. I like to change the brakes, put all high-performance stuff on, high-performance tires with the biggest rims that I can fit, but still make manage. I have never had bigger than 22 inches, but I’ve seen them. Definitely leather seats. If I can fit TVs in there somewhere…I’ve always had SUVs, so I had TVs in the back for group travel with a pile of DVDs.
Well, with that you know that they are sitting in the back seat and occupied. They’re entertained while you are driving.
Now, a navigation system. I don’t know how you can travel without a navigation system. I used to have my little Garmin, but now I get navigation systems in the car. Tinted windows. You know, Nevada is more lenient than most states. You can get the windows tinted very dark here, but then if you drive that car in California… ticket! You have to be pretty careful, being as different states have different regulations. Now I take off all the logos, too, all except for the one Cadillac symbol. I like a clean look.
How fast have you driven in a car?
Donald Trump let me take his Ferrari out at a tournament a few years ago, and I’d say 150 or 160.
Was that on the Long Island Expressway?
No, it was in West Palm Beach. He’d just gotten a new Ferrari, and for our tour championship, we got to stay at his hotel and we got to play at his golf course. He has beautiful cars, and a friend and I got his car for a night. I’d like to drive on a track once. I know they have a racing track here in Vegas, and I’d like to do that one time. You know, where you can actually take a car out on a track.
If you ever want to go to one of my off-road races, let me know. I’ll take you.
Really? Do they have them here?
Yeah. I just did the Vegas To Reno back in August. The way the course was mapped out it came out to be
Yeah. Not on the road, but up in the mountains, on the sides of cliffs doing 80. We raced the Ford Raptor truck, the only Raptor they modified for racing. Off- road is fun, but it’s not very glamorous. If you don’t mind eating dirt for a few days…
Okay, speaking of your Tahoe, it was lifted. Did you put the lift kit on it?
I bought it that way.
What do you have going on right now, or what is your favorite charity?
This year, I got to be on Celebrity Apprentice, which was fun because I got to play for my favorite charity. The Boys & Girls Club. Now that the off-season is here, I have more time to spend here and in Sacramento where my parents live, and I’ll spend more time with the kids here and there. I’ve got great sponsors. My largest sponsor is Addidas. (Others are) Taylor Made, Cannon, Outback Steak House, Mastercard, 24 Hour Fitness, Sky Golf and Winn Grips, which are two golf companies. I do stuff with Addidas Eyewear. I got to design an Addidas shoe for 2010. That was exciting.
That’s cool. When does it come out and where?
In January, I think all over the world. You always have a dream of having a shoe.
(LAUGHTER) Yeah. Why did you choose Vegas?
I chose Vegas because my coach is here. Butch Harmon lives in Vegas. I came across this area of Lake Las Vegas, which doesn’t have the feel of Vegas. You have a man-made lake, beautiful homes and a sense of community. You’re a half an hour away from the strip and anything and everything you could imagine. There’s great concerts, spas, restaurants and shopping.
An international airport
Yes. There’s a lot more to Vegas than just the strip. You can go hiking in Red Rock. There’s skiing a half-hour from here.
(LAUGHTER) Yes. I would love to check out every spa in every hotel.
That’d be a book in itself.
Yes. It would make a great TV show. Get paid to do it and order every treatment on the menu.
Tell me about your motorcycle.
One of my favorite toys that I built with my dad is a custom bike. It’s beautiful. It has caricatures of me and my dad, and it is a retro baby blue. They actually had it on display at Treasure Island. They’ve shown it across the country at different motorcycle shows and now it’s at home. One day, I’d like to have a room where you can have it up on display.
You don’t ride it?
No, it’s too beautiful. My dad rides it when my parents come to visit me here in Vegas. It was on display for almost a year on the strip.
That’s neat. Have you ever had a bike you rode a bunch?
No. Being on tour, you cannot really take chances. Yes, you have to be extra careful with the body.
I was excited to meet Natalie knowing that she was not only an accomplished athlete, but a lover of horsepower. She was gracious, sweet and inviting/ A hot lady that knows her cars!