Madelene Sagstrom Opens Up On Sexual Abuse Suffered As A Child
Madelene Sagstrom, LPGA player and World No. 62, has revealed the sexual abuse she suffered as a child in Sweden.
As part of the LPGA’s DriveOn initiative, introduced in 2019 with the aim to push the game forward towards a more inclusive and diverse future, the 28-year-old bravely shared her harrowing story with the world.
“Growing up in Sweden, I was so naïve,” Sagstrom wrote.
“I thought I could trust everybody. I thought everybody was supposed to be my friend.
“One day, I was by my myself going over to see my friend, a man I was really close to but who was not a relative.
“It was one of those things to just hang out – nothing weird, nothing wrong.
“And he ended up sexually abusing me.
“I was seven-years old.
“And I went home and acted like nothing happened for 16 years.”
In a bid to rid herself of the feeling of shame that she silently carried around, Sagstrom poured all of her focus into golf, winning junior titles and enjoying a successful spell at college in America before turning pro in 2015.
But the secret she had held within for so long was starting to impact every facet of her life, feelings that could no longer be subdued on the course.
“I got really, really absorbed in golf. I think that was my saviour in a sense.
“I could immerse myself in this world and when I played well, I was OK.
“That became a pattern. If I could just play a little better, I thought I’d be happier.
“Then I carried it a step further.
“If I could just be a little skinnier, a little nicer, a little more likeable…
“What I didn’t realise is that I simply did not like who I was.
“I felt insecure – never thinking I was worthy enough or good enough.
“I couldn’t even put body lotion on my legs because I hated my body so much, due to what somebody else did to me.”
It wasn’t until her coach at the time – former European Ryder Cup star Robert Karlsson – noticed that Sagstrom was having a hard time controlling her emotions on the course, that the Swede decided to open up on the traumatic experience of her past.
“He [Karlsson] really pushed me to dig deeper and understand the reasons why I reacted the way I did.
“At first, I didn’t think it was important, but it kept coming back again and again. So one day, I did tell him.
“I was like, ‘I have this thing from when I was a child, I don’t think it matters very much, but maybe’.
“He looked at me and I literally just burst into tears and I was sat there like, ‘this was important, this was a massive step’.”
Such was the weight lifted that Sagstrom went on to win three times on the Symetra Tour in 2016, setting the record for single-season earnings and securing her LPGA Tour card for the following year.
“Telling Robert was the biggest release I’ve ever had. It made me feel free.
“It’s a big reason why I won three times in 2016 and earned my LPGA Tour card.
“I didn’t feel like I was hiding anymore. I felt like I could do whatever I wanted.”
But the journey wasn’t over. With Karlsson’s support, Sagstrom decided it was time to tell her parents of the abuse she had suffered.
“Together, we decided that I needed to tell my parents. That was one of the worst days of my life.
“It was the start of a new chapter in my life, of me feeling OK just being me.
“Everything I had built up for so many years fell to the ground.
“For so long, I never thought I’d tell anyone. It was going to be my secret forever. I’m so happy it’s not.
“Finding my voice and courage to share my experience has taken time. Survivorship is a continuous process.
“As a professional athlete, I have the visibility to make a difference and connect with others who may have experienced sexual abuse.
“If I touch one life by telling my story, it will all be worth it.”