From Stage Fright To Stage Presence
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Sometimes, when a reporter unfamiliar with her stutter asks Gustafson a question, a look of panic comes over the writer's face as the answer unfolds at a snail's pace. Gustafson approached Val Skinner of Golf Channel about doing a TV interview because she felt left out as others were asked to do spots in advance of the Solheim Cup. "It was mostly my own fault because I've always turned down TV interviews," Gustafson says. "So when I sat behind Val on the flight to Solheim, I just asked her if we could come up with something. She loved the idea and ran it by her boss and off we went."
Gustafson will go to the Masters in April to receive the Ben Hogan Award from the Golf Writers Association of America, which goes to a player who has overcome injury or illness to compete. She was placed on the ballot because she went public about her stutter on Golf Channel and because she indicated she would be willing to attend the dinner and accept the honor. "I can't tell you how much this means to me," she said in a text message when told she had won the vote of writers.
Asked what her message is to children who stutter, Gustafson says: "I would tell them do what you want to do. Granted, phone salesman might not be the job for you, but go out and do what you want to do. Don't let other people tell you what you can and can't do."
Nilsson says she wouldn't be surprised if Gustafson's "best days were still ahead of her." Gustafson is more grounded. "I think that is a bit optimistic," Gustafson says. "I'm 38 and I'm no Juli Inkster. But I'm sure going to try to have a few more good years out here."
Between tournaments this summer, in Oslo, Norway, Gustafson will see her favorite singer, Bruce Springsteen, for the 15th time. "There is no comparison to Springsteen," she says. Maybe she can recite to those children she wants to inspire these lyrics from "Living Proof" by The Boss: "You shot through my anger and rage, to show me my prison was just an open cage. There were no keys, no guards, just one frightened man and some old shadows for bars."
When the Solheim Cup was secured for Europe and the winning side had exhausted itself hugging each other, Gustafson spotted a reporter who had covered her career for 10 years and shared many meals with her, admiring as she forced out the word "papadam" in an Indian restaurant.
"How do you like me now?" she said, beaming and with a firm grip on the reporter's shoulders. The words were spoken flawlessly. Gustafson was a winner in many ways in Ireland, and it may be that her run of good luck is just beginning now that she has realized her prison is just an open cage.