Nicole Castrale Announces Retirement from LPGA Tour

We extend our best wishes to Nicole Castrale today, who just announced her retirement from golf. And congratulations for an excellent pro career that includes some great high points even thought it was cut short by injury.

But we also bet Nicole has a successful career ahead of her in television work. She's already gotten some great airtime on Golf Channel, both in the studio and on the course, and done a terrific job. We expect Golf Channel (or some other network that broadcasts golf) to scoop her up very quick.

Nicole is a California girl who played her college golf at the University of Southern California. She turned pro in 2001 and played the Futures Tour that year, but earned her LPGA card for the 2002 season. She played mostly on the Futures Tour again in 2004 and 2005, winning twice in 2005, before getting back to the LPGA in 2006. And that's when her career took off.

Castrale earned her first (and what turned out to be her only) LPGA win at the Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika, and did it by beating Lorena Ochoa in a playoff. She also played her way onto the USA's 2007 Solheim Cup team, and sank the winning putt for Team USA in the singles.

Nicole made the Solheim Cup team again in 2009, but injuries began causing real issues with her career in 2010 when she underwent shoulder surgery. She missed most of 2011 after giving birth to her daughter.

Nicole had some good moments after that, but injuries, particularly recurring back problems, were keeping her away from the game more and more. (It was during one injury respite that Castrale first got extended airtime on the Golf Channel.) And she finally felt forced to have the career-ending back surgery that she'd been avoiding.

So it's time to turn the page. But before you turn the page, here's is Nicole's thoughtful farewell announcement (click to enlarge):

Melanie Collins Returning to Golf Channel as 'Driver vs. Driver' Host

Have you heard about the Golf Channel series Driver vs. Driver? It will begin airing in Fall 2016 with a high-stakes concept: A winning driver design will be selected and put on the market by Wilson Golf.

And we're happy to hear that Melanie Collins is the host of Driver vs. Driver. Melanie is a very well-rounded sports broadcaster, having covered a slew of sports and served in a variety of roles, from sideline reporter to anchor. She's currently serving as a sideline reporter on CBS college basketball broadcasts, and did the same role on the network's 2015 college football schedule, too.

Melanie should be familiar to both Golf Babes readers and to Golf Channel viewers: This won't be her first hosting gig on the network. She was the co-host of Big Break Florida in 2014, and co-hosted Big Break The Palm Beaches in 2015. Three Golf Channel hosting gigs in three years: Hey, we won't complain if Melanie shows up in the golf world every year!

Here's how Golf Channel describes the new series:

Driver vs. Driver will follow the trials and tribulations that aspiring golf equipment designers face as their golf driver ideas and concepts are evaluated, critiqued, refined and tested. The winning design team ultimately will earn $500,000 and the opportunity to have their driver design sold at retail under the Wilson Staff name. The series also will take viewers behind the scenes as Wilson Labs engineers and designers partner with the contestants to take their ideas through prototyping and rigorous testing to refine the concepts until a winner is determined. The winning driver concept and viable driver will become part of the Wilson Golf line of products in 2017.

Production on the show began in late 2015 and will continue into the Summer of 2016. It will be previewed at the PGA Show in late January and begin airing sometime in the Fall of 2016.

Alabama Wins Golf Championships, Too

Here it is, the morning after the college football national championship game. And once again, Alabama is the winner, this time by a 45-40 score over Clemson. And those are both excellent golf programs, too, but since Bama was the winner this time, we'll focus on the Crimson Tide's golfers.

In recent years the Alabama men's golf team won national championships in 2013 and 2014. But this ain't Golf Dudes! We're golf babes, so what about the women's teams at Alabama? Alabama won the women's national championship in 2012, and perennially has strong teams. In fact, the defending national champion (as in, she won the 2015 championship tournament) is Alabama's Emma Talley:

The Alabama women's golf team has also produced many recent golfers who graduated onto the world's professional golf tours (as Emma surely will herself). A few of those golfers:

Jenny Suh

Brooke Pancake

Kathleen Ekey

Stephanie Meadow

Camilla Lennarth

Jennifer Kirby

Rhea Nair

(And friend.)

Hannah Collier

Natalie Gulbis Makes Our New Year Happier

Golf Babes wishes all our readers - and, yes, even those who never visit! - a very happy new year and best wishes for a great 2016.

Natalie Gulbis has certainly been doing her part to get everyone in a good mood for the start of a new year. Natalie has shared multiple photos over the past week or so from photo shoots. I believe these are various shoots she did throughout 2015, rather than all from the same session.

Regardless, Nat-Nat is looking fab-fab:

The first two images she tweeted without comment; the third she added, "#stansmith. With jeans or a dress. Fav casual shoe @adidasGolf @adidasUS." So we can assume that one was from an Adidas shoot.

And Natalie has been on fire on social media in general lately, including photos from a recent vacation to Cabo San Lucas. Such as this one:

If you're not already following Natalie on Twitter, do so!