Gulbis a golf reality

GARY PROUSE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

Natural beauty is everywhere at Blackhawk golf course.

But when they parade to Blackhawk for the second edition of the Tour Challenge in mid-August it will be for another natural beauty.

Natalie Gulbis.

Organizers of the event, slated for August 14, won't go so far as to say that sex sells, but after an all-male foursome showed its shotmaking in the inaugural celebrity showdown last year, a legitimate LPGA star with killer looks is on the card this time around.

And that's a good thing.

"She's young, sexy, in the top 10 almost every week, and on the verge of becoming a true sensation on Tour," said Al Prokop, managing general partner at Blackhawk. "It's a fact of life. Natalie has huge appeal."

Prokop admits that Gulbis, who has her own reality show on the Golf Channel, wasn't the only LPGA beauty they were chasing. Paula Creamer was on their list, but Creamer had a previous golf engagement in Europe, and had to say no.

"The thought was to attract both Natalie and Paula, but Paula had a scheduling conflict," said Prokop.

Prokop says it's not easy finding the right mix for the Tour Challenge. Some players can be unreliable, others are simply too costly. Some just can't fit it into their schedule. And, at a time when both the PGA and LPGA tours have young players hitting the limelight, and older players fading, who appeals most to the public?

Organizers have settled on a bit of both - a trio of veterans in Tom Watson, Paul Azinger and Peter Jacobsen, combining with Gulbis.

Next year? Who knows. But don't be surprised to see two LPGA players, or maybe a Creamer and a young, vibrant crowd-pleaser such as Colombian Camilo Villegas, who tied for third at this year's Players Championship and has two other second-place ties on his scorecard this season.

Even entertaining Englishman Nick Faldo, who has teamed with Azinger on golf telecasts, would draw a crowd.

"The response from the public has been tremendous," said Prokop. "They see the players they have watched on television in real life here. It is definitely a thrill. Like the guy Peter (Jacobsen) brought out of the crowd at the clinic last year. For him it was a lifetime thrill."

The clinic that the pros put on before their round - with Jacobsen's impersonations highlighting the show - will run longer this year because of popularity.

Tickets are $125, and only 2,000 will be sold. They are available through the event's charity, Caritas Hospitals, at 780-482-8232. Last year's event - which brought together Fred Couples, Stephen Ames, Craig Stadler and Jacobsen - sold out quickly and raised $50,000 for the Caritas charity.

The event is still looking for sponsors.


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