Natalie Gulbis withdrew from this week’s LPGA Founders Cup event due to an illness that her management team confirmed was malaria.
Gulbis contracted the affliction two weeks ago during the HSBC Women’s Champions tourney in Asia and quit after the first round. Speculation at the time was that she was suffering from malaria but sources close to the popular golfer said she had flu-like symptoms.
“Natalie originally became ill in Singapore and she was treated and medically cleared to fly home,” according to Tuesday's joint statement from the LPGA and IMG, Gulbis’ management firm. “Natalie continues to be treated at home and is expected to be at full strength in three weeks. Natalie’s well-being is a top priority for both the LPGA and IMG, and steps continue to be taken to ensure the well-being of Natalie and all the players on the LPGA Tour now and for future events. LPGA doctors have been consulted and believe she is on appropriate medications, under great care, and her prognosis is excellent.”
Tournament founding partner Scottsdale Healthcare will be on-site at the Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix on Wednesday to draw and test blood for players, caddies, and family members who wish to be screened for what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention term a parasite-borne disease. Left untreated, malaria can cause “severe complications” and be fatal, though the CDC noted that “illness and death...can usually be prevented.”
Shortly after Gulbis’ withdrawal from the Singapore contest, her coach Butch Harmon tweeted that she and Se Ri Pak, who also pulled out of the contest with illness, had contracted malaria.
@dmilberg she is telling me malaria but the LPGA is trying to down play it . It is serious and ill be glad when she is home to see good Dr.s— Butch Harmon (@43BH) March 4, 2013
At the time, tourney officials said Pak did not have malaria, while Gulbis was undergoing blood tests and had not been hospitalized.
In the LPGA's first U.S. event of the 2013 season, world No. 1 Yani Tseng hopes to defend her RR Donnelly LPGA Founders Cup title.