Gulbis really is smokin' hot

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:13 PM ET

There are times when being a sports writer is absolutely, without a doubt, the best job in the world.

Yesterday was one of them.

On what had to be the nicest morning of the summer (not too hot, not too cool, not a cloud in the sky) some of us showed up for a long workday before 7 a.m.

And why not? The initial tee times in the hope-springs-eternal, first round of an LPGA (my new favourite league) tournament on a spectacular course like the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club? Can it get any better?

Wait. Yes it can. A couple of big fluffy ones in the sky to cut down on the UV rays and the noon-hour tee times!

Of four marquee groups to go off No. 1 in succession at the CN Canadian Women's Open, yours truly opted to focus on the 12:50 p.m. threesome. Told some people the reason was that it included Helen Alfredsson, and that any time an "Alfie" is performing in Ottawa, it's certainly worth watching. Told others it was because of Lorie Kane, and that I had a feeling this would be the year the P.E.I. Princess would take her most serious run at her homeland title.

The truth? Yes, it's what you guessed. Natalie Gulbis. A few facts and observations about the 25-year-old blonde bombshell from California:

- Gulbus and her caddie have something in common. They are both smokin', except in his case it's with matches and cigarettes. She's just smokin' hot.

- Believe it or not, the ex-girlfriend of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlisberger is actually prettier in person than she is in pictures. And that's saying a lot.

- The $1-million smile she constantly flashes gives Gulbis the look of a very nice and pleasant girl. Apparently, it's as genuine as her golf swing. Everyone we've talked to who has had contact with Gulbis this week says the same thing: she's an absolute sweetheart.

- The chick has got some game. Gulbis battled with an unco-operative putter early yesterday before finally putting up a red number to match her sweater-skirt outfit. She birdied 16 and 17 to finish 2-under, and it is to that back nine we go for our favourite Gulbis moments of the afternoon.

On the 162-yard 17th, her tee shot stopped about 14 inches short of finding the bottom of the cup. After her tap in, some dude sitting in the grandstand behind the green shouted out his phone number. Even though she's probably heard such attempts for her attention thousands of times before, Gulbis flashed a grin that would leave a strong man's knees weak.

Earlier, on the tough 14th hole, Gulbis recovered from a errant drive to save par. The crowd roared. Again, out came the smile. As she walked to her bag at the side of the green, Gulbis gave knuckle props to her caddy. When Kane putted out, she walked over to Gulbis and exchanged a similar sign of congratulations -- then gave Natalie a friendly little slap on the butt! You could almost hear jaws drop and the gulps from the dirty little boys who witnessed the innocent gesture they've seen on a baseball diamond so many times before. Somehow, this wasn't the same.

Meanwhile, Gulbis, Kane and "Alfie" are out again today, this time teeing off on No. 10 at 9:10 a.m. It's a great group to follow, for more reasons than one.

Me? I'll be back at a great job, bright and earlier again this morning.

INSIDE THE ROPES

Stuff you won't read anywhere else -- during her round yesterday, Lorena Ochoa's nourishment of choice was a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Later, she went for the Nutella ... Alfredsson is not related to Daniel Alfredsson, but she is married to former NHLer Kent "The Magic Man" Nilsson. So with the hockey connection, she'll probably get it if you start chanting "Alfie, Alfie, Alfie" when she approaches the tee blocks ... Call me crazy, but I think there's something sexy about a cute blonde that hits the ball 270 yards and curses like a trucker when she sends one astray. Yes, I am a Brittany Lincicome fan ... On No. 5, Laura Diaz was about to stroke another birdie attempt when an unaware scorer said loudly into his radio: "Group 19 reporting." Diaz stepped away, then when quiet was restored settled for par. As she walked to the sixth tee, Diaz mockingly repeated to a friend what the scorer had said. The guy told her "way to shake it off." Not completely. Diaz three-putted the next two greens.

CHIP SHOTS

In the first group off the 10th tee, Kelli Kuehne struggled to keep the wheels on the cart. But she did not shoot a 65 on her first nine, as was initially posted in the media room. That number would have tied a course record -- for 18 holes ... The only Karrie Webb quote we could grab came from a conversation we overheard her having with Karrie Webb. "S--t," the best female Australian golfer of all time told herself after hitting from the rough to the rough on No. 18. "God, you're hopeless." .... Just wondering: If Mike Weir is known as Weirsie, can Michelle Wie be called Wiesie? Or is that name reserved for George Jefferson's wife? ... Gulbis echoed the sentiments of others when she spoke of yesterday's crowd. "For a gallery out here on a Thursday, it feels like a Sunday at a major," she said. "It's incredible." ... In making a birdie putt on her ninth hole that put her at 5-under, Annika Sorenstam's reaction was "the best ever", according to veteran RCGA photographer John Major. Jubilation from the normally stoic Swede? She really must have been fired up.


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