A three-time winner on the LPGA tour, Sophie Gustafson, 28, has
often had trouble completing a sentence in press-conference
settings. During the off-season the Swede spent three weeks at
the Hollins Communications Research Institute in Roanoke, Va.,
learning to talk again.
SI: Why now, after all these years?
SG: I didn't know that the institute existed. They contacted the
LPGA tour, and the timing was right since we didn't have any
tournaments in January. I thought that if I didn't go then, I
probably never would, so I gave it a chance.
SI: Tell us about the program.
SG: You're there for nearly three weeks and work with a therapist
eight to 10 hours a day. You have the middle weekend off to go
out in the real world and practice the techniques you have
SI: Such as?
SG: We practiced exaggerating syllables and manipulating muscle
movement in the tongue, lips and jaw. We also worked with the
vocal cords and doing different breathing patterns. I still have
to practice a lot, but the more I use the drills, the easier it
SI: How long have you stuttered?
SG: Since I started talking.
SI: What is the feeling when you know what you want to say but
the words won't come out?
SG: I hardly ever feel embarrassed anymore. Most of the time it's
SI: There's an old rumor that as an amateur you purposely blew
tournaments so you wouldn't have to give an acceptance speech.
SG: That's not true. It may have been in the back of my mind, but
it was not a conscious thought. When I was on the Swedish team,
we had an exercise in which everyone had to make a victory
speech. I finally decided that if I just said, "Thank you," that
would be sufficient and would take off some of the pressure. Six
weeks after that I won my first pro tournament [on the Swedish
tour], and three weeks later I won my first European tournament.
It might have been something that held me back, but I didn't
SI: You can sing beautifully?
SG: No problem there. Most people who stutter don't stutter when
they sing. Most don't stutter when they talk to their pets,
SI: Is it true that you speak much better after a couple of
SG: Beer relaxes me, as with most people, and when I didn't know
how to talk, it did help. Now I have to think really hard when I
talk, and beer doesn't help.
SI: What is the weirdest advice anyone has ever given to you to
correct your stuttering?
SG: Stand on my head and drink a glass of water ... or maybe that
was for hiccups.