The Evian Masters offered car service and breakfast and a private golf critique on the Hudson with Natalie Gulbis, and when someone offers a town car, an omelet bar and golf lessons with a star, it's generally polite to accept.
So I did. And I lounged, and I ate. I drank my glass of water and I ogled the stack of pink "I ♥ Evian Masters" backpacks. I endured a PowerPoint presentation about the core values of Evian and the Evian Masters and learned that Gulbis, ladies and gentlemen, is the true-to-form, glamorous embodiment of those same buzzwords. Which is why I'm about to treat this sun-splashed club like it's my local, bare-bones range, carpet on the miniature golf course shagging at the seams.
At least, that's what I think. At the time, and even a week later, I'm still not quite sure what I was doing inside, where a sparkling chandelier adorns the room and bowtied waiters ask if we need a refill on our glasses of water and a chef in a New York Mets cap flips eggs in the corner. The Evian bottles are big and small, glass and plastic, simple and ornate — designer, even, I'm told later — and I'm scared to touch them. Everything is so precious and delicate, and transporting a room full of people to the Evian Royal Resort, but an ocean away, is dreamy, if not realistic. But then that's the point, I suppose.
Then Natalie Gulbis walks in, and the overhanging lights and buffet bar seem less thrilling.
She struts past red couches in her pitch-perfect ensemble — orange polo with orange collar and orange sleeves, short orange skirt — and the white bouquets of flowers pop as brightly as the pearl studs in her ears. Canon on her arm, MasterCard on her hat, TaylorMade everywhere else. The Evians glisten in her sunglasses' gleam as she laughs at mindless promotional spots. Her portraits are everywhere.
She moves outside, where she's giving one-on-one lessons on the patio. ("You been upstairs to the terrace yet?" one suit asks another. "Gorgeous up there.") On this floor, though, there's a makeshift putting green to the right, visible through the legion of alternatively shaped Evian bottles, bouncy tee mat and net to the left. Gulbis sits on a white couch as I walk out to meet her.
"Let's go hit some balls," I say immediately after our introduction. I don't have any questions prepared. I could have asked her about her Twitter page, I guess, and Wikipedia told me the night before that Gulbis was a contestant on The Apprentice, so I could have grilled her about The Donald, maybe. There's that golf career, too. But asking her fluffy questions and pretending to be there for the Evian Masters seemed disingenuous.
"Sure, you want to hit balls?"
She jumps up from the couch. No questions for four minutes!
"Now I have to warn you," I say, preempting catastrophe, as she yanks a club from a generic bag, "that this might be a disaster. I haven't hit balls in, like, eight months. So this could get ugly. What are you giving me? A sand?"
My lucky day. It's damn near impossible to look spastic hitting a sand wedge into a net two feet away. You want to hit golf balls with Natalie Gulbis? Hit the sand wedge. I did, and I spattered those bad boys all over the net, same height each time, swing perfectly fluid, because it was all I had to do. Imagine that — playing golf when the distance, trajectory and spin of the shot is about as meaningful as a divot on a turf mat. It's Golden Tee come to life. With a sand wedge, all the time.
Looking pretty is the only objective, and if I couldn't do that with a sand wedge, I just would have plopped down on that couch and asked if she would tweet about our day. It's beautiful morning. My stomach is full. And my fears of yanking drives wayward into the water have been mollified by the new goal of impersonating a hacker with a swing disproportionate to his game.
"You have a nice swing!" she reassures me.
"You're just trying to butter me up."
"No! You keep your lower body quiet, nice swing. And you didn't used to play golf?"
"Nope," I boast as she hands me her own 7-iron, gripped in a worn pink.
"But something, right?"
"Yeah, I can tell."
Hear that? She can tell! Five swings later, and she finally gives some advice — slow down the backswing, she warns — and I become so indignant that I tell her to take some swings of her own. Show me how it's done, if you're so sage.
"You know," she says as we switch places, "I've seen some interesting pictures on Deadspin."