Natalie Gulbis: What it's like to support President Donald Trump
Natalie Gulbis, 34, won the 2007 Evian Masters, was a three-time member of the U.S. Solheim Cup team and is one of the highest-profile celebrities in women's golf.
Last year, I wrote an article in response to a question I got on a daily basis from golf fans worldwide, "What's Donald Trump really like?"
I told a story of a man who -- in my experience -- has always been gracious, competitive, generous and inspiring. A month later, Trump's daughter, Ivanka, called me on my way to a Garth Brooks concert to ask if I would speak at the Republican National Convention. I was overwhelmed with a sense of honor but also terrified that I'd have to speak in front of thousands in Cleveland and millions worldwide in a matter of weeks. I knew telling the Trumps yes wouldn't come without risk, but that was something our president always encouraged me to take. I was happy for the opportunity to talk about how Donald taught me to challenge the status quo, and how he helped me open the Natalie Gulbis Boys and Girls Club in Las Vegas.
This year, the question I get most often is: "What's the reaction you've gotten for your support of President Trump?"
In short, I've heard nothing but positive feedback on a daily basis from people from all different walks of life -- sports, business, veterans and the list goes on. But as you might expect, the golf world has been the community that has shown me the most overwhelming support. And it makes sense. In recent history, few people have been as influential in women's golf, and the game of golf in general, as President Trump.
I first met President Trump -- and how cool is that to say: President Trump -- in 2003 at the ADT Championship, the LPGA tournament that was then played at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida. The ADT was a special event. The players stayed at his house, Mar-a-Lago. He was so welcoming, as was his wife Melania and sons Eric and Don.
Donald and I hit it off right away. He's incredibly curious and inquisitive, so he had questions about what I thought of the golf course, the state of the game, and the business climate of the LPGA. He asked about my goals and dreams. It was not a light conversation. He has always been an incredible mentor. Now that he's president, I guess he'll be harder to get in touch with.
Donald loves golf, and golf has been very fortunate to have him. He took numerous risks as a high-profile billionaire to help the women's game by investing his time, money and resources into a tour that happily welcomed his support. During the recession, when golf courses were closing left and right, Donald invested in growing the game. He pushed for the LPGA to be on network television, and he brought us venues and sponsors. And he told us not be afraid and to look at ourselves as athletes and not as female athletes.
Today, he owns 16 golf properties worldwide, with even more in development. In recent years, he has hosted a myriad of tournaments on his golf courses: the aforementioned ADT Championship, the PGA Tour WGC event at Trump Doral, a second PGA Tour event in Puerto Rico, and the Boys and Girls Junior at Trump National Bedminster for the USGA. By this summer, two LPGA majors will have taken place on Trump courses: the 2015 Ricoh Women's British Open at Trump Turnberry and the 2017 U.S. Women's Open at Trump National Bedminster in July.
In January, when I teed it up at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, I was nervous to see what reaction I would get from my LPGA peers. In my 16 years on tour, I have taken my fair share of unconventional risks that include a reality show on the Golf Channel, a swimsuit calendar that the USGA first banned, posing in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, and starting my own women's sports company. Donald really gave me tools for my negotiations. He helped a lot in advice for negotiations with sponsors. He told me if I'm talking to a Fortune 500 company and I'm going up against an NFL player, I'd have to be one-and-a half times better.
Those all panned out in my favor, but now I would be facing my respected peers after ignoring the most fundamental tenet for professional athletes: Don't talk about faith and politics!
Well, like so many times before, I was embraced with support and congratulations from countless players, caddies, staff members and fans. One after another would run up to me, congratulating me for something I did six months ago. In their own way, each one told me they were proud of me for taking a chance to speak out in support of President Trump. And it wasn't just on my tour. Last week, while filming my Fox television show "18 Holes" at TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Open, I was greeted with congratulations from the PGA Tour players and cheers from the galleries: "We love Trump!" ... "Way to go, Natalie!" ... "Make America great again!"
I'm not delusional. I know that support for President Trump is far from universal. That never happens in politics. While there have been some negative comments on social media, no one has said anything critical to my face. And while Donald's aggressive stand on immigration has been controversial, the LPGA is a very international tour, and LPGA officials say there have been no visa issues so far.
I am very encouraged by the immense support the golf community has shown me and our 45th president these past few months. I believe deeply in America, in President Trump and in the ability of both to overcome any divide.