Gustafson still going strong, having fun in 14th season on Tour
Some things may lose their luster over time, but for Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson, competing each week on the LPGA Tour is as exciting as ever.
While the 14-year veteran and five-time LPGA tournament winner isn’t exactly fond of traveling after all these years, the thrill of the competition and camaraderie among Tour players still revs her engines.
“Traveling is getting a bit old, especially since we fly pretty much everywhere nowadays,” said Gustafson, who has more than $6.1 million in career earnings. “There is nowhere really we can drive from tournament to tournament. Airports I can do without, even though they feel like a second home.
“It’s the competition I love. It can be a bet over a beer with my brother or a putt to win Solheim, it’s all fun. It’s just a different kind of pressure.”
Gustafson was technically an LPGA rookie in 1998, but had her first full season on Tour in 1999. A force for years on the Ladies European Tour before joining the LPGA, she won her first LPGA event in 2000 and added another win later that year.
Through the years, Gustafson has won three more times, competed in eight Solheim Cups for Team Europe and racked up 56 top-10 finishes. She finds it amazing that next year will already be her 15th on Tour.
“It’s hard to believe,” Gustafson said. “I just flew to Evian, and I realized it’s my 17th Evian in a row. That’s almost harder to believe. But you know what, when time flies, it’s a sign that you are having fun, and fun I’ve had.”
Gustafson is as motivated as ever in 2012. Despite making 11 of 15 cuts and recording four top-20 finishes, she is not satisfied with her level of play this season.
“To be honest with you, I’m very disappointed with my 2012 season,” said Gustafson, who is 55th in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings. “I feel I’ve played pretty solid, but haven’t managed to get anything going. I’m hoping the second part (of the season) will be a little more flow too. My goal for the rest of the season is to get back into the top 30 in the Rolex World Rankings.”
The 5-foot-10 Swede proved she was still a force to be reckoned with at last year’s Solheim Cup in Ireland, posting a 4-0-0 record to help the Europeans take back the Cup with a 15-13 victory. The win was a great thrill for the affable European, who enjoyed the experience immensely.
“It was special,” she said. “I’ve always had a fantastic relationship with Ireland and the Irish people. I was so excited to be able to play Solheim in Ireland. It was like I had a second gear all week. Nothing was going to take what I so desperately wanted from me.”
She is once again in position to play on Team Europe at the 2013 Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo., and Gustafson will relish the opportunity to compete in one of golf’s preeminent events.
“Solheim is special, not just to me, but to everyone who ever plays or has played in it,” said Gustafson, who has a 13-12-6 career Solheim Cup record. “It’s about pride, passion and playing for your continent. It doesn’t get much better then that.
“We know we have an uphill climb in Parker next year, but I feel it’s our time. It will most likely be my last on foreign soil, and believe me, I’ll give everything and then some to finally hoist that cup on U.S. soil.”
As far as the rest of Gustafson’s career goes, she doesn’t have specifics in mind about how long she’d like to keep playing or what she’d like to accomplish. She is just enjoying being a member of the Tour.
“I’ll keep playing until I don’t think it’s fun anymore or until my body gives up,” she said. “I’ve been very fortunate not to have had any serious injuries. Hopefully, that can continue and I can finish my career on my terms. I’m thinking I’ll still play a couple of years on the LET after my LPGA days are over.”
And when it comes to Gustafson’s passions off the course, it’s all about music.
“I love listening to music,” she said. “I love hearing new music and trying to figure out what the song is all about. Bruce (Springsteen) has always been my favorite.
“I saw him (recently) in Oslo, and I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face for days. It’s quite remarkable to see someone like that, who shows such passion for what he does, especially after doing it for over 40 years. I call it pure passion. If he didn’t have it, it wouldn’t work to kickstart 75,000 people and get everyone’s attention for over three hours. I admire that greatly.”