David Drysdale has revealed how skipping school in Dunbar to spend his days playing golf led to a career that has enabled him to join an exclusive club in the European game.
A little later than he’d expected due to the circuit being shut down for four months because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 45-year-old is clocking up his 500th European Tour appearance in this week’s Hero Open at Forest of Arden, near Birmingham.
Drysdale is the 44th player to reach that milestone since the circuit was inaugurated in 1972 and only the seventh Scot, joining Sam Torrance, Colin Montgomerie, Paul Lawrie, Gordon Brand Jnr, Stephen Gallacher and Sandy Lyle in the longevity club.
Bearing in mind he was once a regular parishioner at the Qualifying School as he battled to secure a firm foothold on the tour, it’s a fantastic achievement by Drysdale, whose only disappointment is that he is still waiting for that maiden win.
He came agonisingly close in the Qatar Masters, the final event before that lockdown, in early March, losing in a play-off to Jorge Campillo after the Spaniard had holed two lengthy putts to stay alive then another one to clinch the victory in Doha.
That effort has galvanised Drysdale, who has occupied a seat at the top table in the European game for 16 successive years, after he’d struggled for a couple of seasons, and he certainly seemed to enjoy an opportunity for reflection as he prepared for the second leg of the new six-event UK Swing.
Drysdale lived in Oldhamstocks, which sits right on the boundary between Berwickshire and East Lothian, when he used to get the school bus to Dunbar, the nearest big town. He completed that journey for the first couple of years at secondary school, but not after he’d caught the golf bug.
“We used to pass Dunbar Golf Club,” he recalled. “Bob Purvis, who was a member at Dunbar, used to drive the bus. He used to kindly, if it was a nice day, let me off at the top of the golf course road. I would walk down, play golf all day, and he would pick me up on the way home. My mum would always ask how school was and I would say, ‘Oh it was fine’.
“I got found out after skipping a couple of days of school a week for six months. It ended up going on a report and I had to check into every class, or my dad would get a call to say that I hadn’t turned up at school again. I think my dad got so peed off with it, he said, ‘If you want him, go down to Dunbar Golf Club and get him’.”
It was dad Robin who introduced Drysdale to golf when “I was ten or 11”. He was a big influence on his career early on, as was Derek Small, his boss at Dunbar as he served his PGA training. “He was my coach for a good number of years, and there have been loads of other people who have been influences along the way,” he said. “All sorts of coaches and people that have inspired me and helped me that I am seriously indebted to.”
Drysdale, who is among 10 Scots in the field, has fond memories of Forest of Arden, having tied for 10th behind Darren Clarke in the 2002 English Open at the Marriott venue in the Midlands in first season on tour. It would be some story if he can land that elusive first win back there in this week of all weeks. “Let’s not hold our breath,” he said of that possibility. “But you never know and that is the beauty of this game.
“I am very proud to be reaching 500 European Tour appearances. It has been 20 years of travelling the world and playing golf. It is not something you set out to achieve when you start playing professionally, but it is a fantastic achievement and I hope for many more.
“There have been some strange things happen over the years, including losing my card by a handful of Euros two years in a row in 2005 and 2006, but, overall, the last dozen or so years have all been highlights.
“The biggest highlight is obviously the golf but also the travel and the people I have met all over the world, and all the places I have been. Being 18-19 years old coming from Dunbar, I never thought I would go to all these fantastic cities and see all these amazing places. We have friends all over the world and enjoy seeing when we come back to play, so that is the main highlight and being so fortunate that golf has given me this life.”
If there was a golfing God, Drysdale would have won in Qatar, especially after hitting majestic blow after majestic blow in the play-off only to have his heart broken by Campillo. “The shots I hit down the stretch in Qatar, I know I can produce under pressure, so I just need to get myself in a position sooner rather than later and see what happens,” he said.
“I don’t want to have a record having played 500 events and not having had a win. If I was to pack up tomorrow, that is the one regret or one niggle that I would have, not winning on the European Tour. It’s amazing how a couple of young lads come out on Tour and then won in their first five or six starts this season already, and I have been at it for 20 years and haven’t won, so the win is the thing that I am after. I am proof that it isn’t easy, but I certainly wouldn’t feel fulfilled as a golf professional if I didn’t win on the European Tour.
“Would I do anything differently if I started over again? Not an awful lot, to be honest. I might have done one or two things different when I had runner-up places, but that is just hindsight golf isn’t it. I may have won one or two if I did a couple things different down the stretch but other than that, I don’t really have any regrets. I wouldn’t change much over the last 20 years.”
In an event that will see Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez move ahead of the aforementioned Torrance for most appearances on the circuit as he clocks up event No 707, Drysdale is delighted to have his bubbly wife/caddie/manager Vicky at his side.
“She has helped me massively and has been on the bag now for four seasons,” he said. “Vicky did travel with me a good few years before she started caddying. You know what Scots can be like, being a little bit negative, but she is so upbeat and positive all the time and she has been fantastic the last couple of years.”
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