Gustafson, 39, leaving LPGA, rejoining LET

RSS

Sophie Gustafson will be looking to rebuild her game and confidence in a return to Europe next season.

Gustafson, 39, who on Friday night announced via Twitter that she was leaving the LPGA, told GolfChannel.com on Saturday that she isn't giving up on the game.

Gustafson made her announcement after missing the cut at the Safeway Classic. She said in an email exchange Saturday afternoon that she will turn her focus to rebuilding her game on the Ladies European Tour next year and to another potential opportunity as a blogger.

“My LPGA season has been awful and trying to get my confidence back over here is almost impossible,” Gustafson wrote in the email to GolfChannel.com. “My swing is as good as it has ever been, but my head needs some pampering.

“I want to go back home and just have fun again playing. If that brings my confidence back, who knows? All I know is I won't be on the LPGA in 2014.”

Gustafson has endured a frustrating season, having missed cuts now in 12 of her 14 LPGA starts. Born and raised in Sweden, Gustafson has won five LPGA and 14 LET titles in her career. She was a four-time LET Order of Merit winner. Her last LPGA title came at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge in '09, her last LET title at the AIB Ladies Irish Open in '10. She played in eight Solheim Cups for Europe.

“I think I've had a pretty good career, even though I never really did much over here in the states,” Gustafson wrote in an email. “I feel I had capacity to do more, but I would never complain. It's been a good ride the last 15 years out here, and it’s tough to leave, maybe not so much the players and caddies, because I know I’ll probably see most of them sometime down the road, in Europe, but leaving the LPGA staff is tough. Paul, the repair guy, Rob and Curtis, the physios, they brought me to tears yesterday. It’s tough when you’ve been out as long as I have. You create friendships.”

For someone who has struggled with severe stuttering all her life, Gustafson has touched so many with her ability to communicate. She has entertained her legion of Twitter followers with her sense of humor. She also touched Golf Channel viewers when she opened up on her stuttering in an interview aired during the Solheim Cup two years ago (see video below). Her courage in sharing her challenge was recognized last year by the Golf Writers Association of America, which presented her its Ben Hogan Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has persevered in golf despite a physical handicap or illness. She also won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award last year.

“I received notes from parents after my TV interview telling me that their kids stutter and now they finally have a sports 'hero' that they can relate to, to look up to,' Gustafson told Golf Digest Woman. 'It's very special to get that kind of feedback from people.'

Gustafson’s ability to connect with audiences came through again during the Solheim Cup two weeks ago. She blogged about Europe’s victory for the Swedish website, Golf.se, a site operated by Svenske Golf, a Swedish golf magazine.

“I got some great feedback, and they actually offered me a little part-time gig writing for them,” Gustafson wrote. “Kinda excited about that.”

While this week’s Safeway Classic appearance could be Gustafson’s last on the LPGA’s tour in the United States, she might have one more LPGA start left overseas this season. She is awaiting word on the possibility of getting into the Evian Championship in France in two weeks on a sponsor invite.

In a TwitLonger follow-up on Saturday to her original tweet Friday, Gustafson was moved by the response to the news she’s leaving the LPGA. She said she was “overwhelmed by the outreach of support” and was grateful for all the kindness.