As you will read in this wonderful article by Ron Sirak from Golf World this past week, Sophie Gustafson may have slain the most important dragon in her career this past fall when she stood in front of a microphone to do an interview with Val Skinner before the Solheim Cup.
Sophie has been an accomplished player on both sides of the Atlantic for a long time. She has 28 pro victories to her credit, 5 on the LPGA Tour and 14 on the Ladies European Tour. She has 13-12-6 record in that competitive furnace called The Solheim Cup and was a perfect 4-0 as one of the heroes at Killeen Castle as the Europeans won the cup this past fall. (Click here to see the review Europe’s Solheim Triumph)
For all her accomplishments she has been an enigma to the golfing public for her lack of public profile considering all her success. But there was a good reason for that since Sophie has had to struggle with a debilitating stutter her entire life. As Sirak says, “Gustafson has been unable to share her personality because of a stutter so severe one sentence rarely follows another without hitting a stop sign”.
With the same tenacity that she has always shown on the golf course Gustafson decided this fall to take her greatest fear head on and release herself from the shackles that this condition has bound her with her entire life. The interview was a watershed moment for her in many ways. Besides casting aside her own demons she was surprised at the public response she got from others who have family members with this condition. One parent wrote that their child who stutters “now has a sports hero they can relate to”. I think she now sees this as an opportunity, instead of a curse, an opportunity to set an example and make a difference in the lives of others.
Gustafson is an accomplished athlete but she is also a bright, intelligent, and outspoken advocate for the ladies’ game. This article touches a cord about how hard it can be for even the most gifted athletes to deal with the challenges that life can pose for any of us.
(Click here to read Ron Sirak’s “From Stage Fright To Stage Presence”)
Sophie wrote an elucidating article of her own for Sports Illustrated in March 2012 a month before she is slated to accept the annual Ben Hogan Award at a ceremonial dinner before The Masters.
Golf World/Golf Digest