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Gulbis focuses on kids, not back surgery, political decision

LPGA Tour star Natalie Gulbis has a lot on her mind. She underwent a fourth back surgery in September and by sometime next week she expects to make a decision about whether or not to run as a Republican for an open seat in Nevada’s third congressional district.

But Tuesday at Spanish Trail Country Club, she held her annual charity tournament and her sole focus was raising money and awareness for Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada. Her longtime swing coach and mentor, Butch Harmon, hosted a putting clinic.

Gulbis has supported Boys and Girls Clubs nationally by raising money through her 2009 appearance on “Celebrity Apprentice” with Donald Trump. Locally, she fundraises and also spends time with the kids. A club is named after her on West Tropicana and Gulbis regularly stops by, sometimes bringing pizza and other times taking the kids on outings around Las Vegas.

“I have played on tour for 17 years and having a Boys and Girls Clubs named for me is my greatest accomplishment,” Gulbis said. “Hosting a tournament like this is a dream come true.”

Gulbis will soon start physical therapy for her back and plans to play in the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic on Jan. 25-28. But if she decides to pursue the congressional seat vacated by Democrat Jacky Rosen, her golf career will have to wait.

“I keep going back and forth on what I will do,” Gulbis said about the impending decision.

Harmon and Gulbis have worked together since her first year on tour, the longest current streak of any pro he teaches. Gulbis joked that she is a good luck charm because Harmon has been voted America’s best instructor in a biennial Golf Digest poll ever since they began working together.

“Putting should be the easiest part of the game,” Harmon said. “Putting is mostly mental because you swing the club (less than a foot), so how can you screw that up?”

According to Harmon, alignment is key. Golfers should envision each putt as a straight putt, no matter the break, and take aim by drawing an imaginary line a few inches in front of the putter. Once committed to the direction, hit the putt along that line without delay.

“Your first read is usually your best read,” Harmon said.

Harmon also said grip pressure is misunderstood by amateurs.

“You never want to grip the putter like a death grip,” Harmon said. “Never grip it harder than a five on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the death grip.”

Harmon also doesn’t believe in a one-grip-fits-all philosophy.

“Putting is all feel. If you don’t have good feel while putting, you will never be a good putter,” Harmon said. “Any way you grip the putter that gives you a good feel is fine with me.”

Prior to a round, Harmon said it is important to gauge the green speeds by rolling longer putts and not worrying about practicing four and five footers. He also said to sink a two-foot putt just prior to going to the first tee.

“People ask me, ‘why should I bother with a two-foot putt?’ Well, I think it’s important for your eyes to see the ball go in the hole,” Harmon said.

Deal of the week

Become a Southern Nevada Golf Association $50 patron and get a special commemorative gift.

Stars on, off course

Here’s a salute to the organizers of the 24th Annual Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation Golf Tournament to be held Monday at SouthShore Golf Club. The event was started by local Marines and annually raises more than $200,000. The national organization was founded in 1995 and has raised more than $70 million for college scholarships awarded to children who lost a parent in the line of duty while serving in the Marines or law enforcement. To donate: mc-lef.org.

The golf notebook appears each Thursday. Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at bhurlburt5@gmail.com or @LVGolfInsider.

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