Gemma Dryburgh gets back to business after 'constant celebration' of maiden LPGA win
The 29-year-old broke into the world’s top 100 for the first time on the back of her breakthrough LPGA win in the TOTO Japan Classic in November and now starts the 2023 campaign sitting 67th in the standings.
That makes Dryburgh the highest-placed Scot on both the men's and women's rankings as she heads into the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, which starts at Lake Nona in Florida on Thursday.
“I noticed the last few weeks that I’ve been climbing without playing, which is nice,” she said, laughing, in an exclusive interview with The Scotsman, “and I want to keep climbing. I suppose the next goal is to get in the top 50 and go from there. The Solheim Cup is in the back of my mind, but I’ve just got to keep focusing on my own game and hopefully that will take care of itself.
“I think my main chance of making the team automatically will be through the World Ranking, but I won’t be looking at it too closely, just keeping it in the back of my mind. Hopefully you are playing well and getting in Suzann’s thoughts, but you don’t want to be in a position where you are relying on a pick.”
She was referring, of course, to European captain Suzann Pettersen and the Norwegian heaped praise on Dryburgh when she had a stint in the commentary box during the LET’s season-ending event in Spain towards the end of last year.
“I did hear that, which was nice to hear from her,” admitted the Aberdonian. “I’ve not heard from her personally, but there’s been a few Instagram reactions. Hopefully I can keep in her mind.
“I think my main goal this year is to do well in one of the majors or a few of them. I think a top 10 in a major would be a top goal as I’ve not really done much in those events yet. To have an opportunity to be in all of them already is nice as I usually start the year not knowing I am going to get in them. It’s nice to be able to plan the year and hopefully peak for those events.”
Dryburgh, who is now based in New Orleans, spent some time with her parents in Beaconsfield, close to London, over the festive period. “It was very nice,” she said of her time in the UK. “It felt like a constant celebration of my win, which was nice. It’s gone on for a few months, which I guess is a bonus of winning towards the end of the year. It was nice to see everyone at the golf club and all my friends as well.
“I did a Q&A at Beaconsfield Golf Club. There were probably 100 people there, with many of them having supported me throughout my career, and it was nice to give something back and share my experiences.”
Dryburgh will be in the same group as Annika Sorenstam in the opening round at Lake Nona, where 29 LPGA players are battling it out for $1.5 million in total, with the winner picking up $225,000. There’s also a team event that involves celebrities.
“Yeah, I think so,” replied Dryburgh to being asked if she feels confident about being able to keep her feet on the ground. “I don’t think winning an event changes you as a person. You’ve still got to keep working hard and almost harder to keep the run going and I will be able to do that hopefully.
“I can hopefully make the most of the confidence I’ve built from the end of last season and I feel the start of the new one has come around quickly. I feel like I’ve almost just finished the last one and hopefully that will be a good thing as the momentum will still be there hopefully.
“This week a nice bonus, as is the case with the PGA Tour (which stages a tournament winner’s event in Hawaii), that you sort of get an event before everyone else at the start of the year and it’s a small field as well. It will be nice to experience it for the first time and I’ll get in it next year as well.
“Lake Nona will be a nice place to start the year. I’m then planning to play in the LET in Saudi, where it’s like a major purse and that’s a great opportunity for the LET players in particular, then also the LPGA events in Singapore and Thailand after that on a three-week stretch.”
During her time off, Dryburgh admitted she’d been following Louise Duncan’s progress in the LET Qualifying School at La Manga, where the West Kilbride woman birdied the last hole in the final round to secure her card at the first attempt.
“I was really pulling for her,” said Dryburgh. “Obviously I was a bit nervous after the way she started the first round in the pre-qualifier, but she showed her tenacity and mental power to get through that then smashed it at the final.
“It just shows you what she’s got in her and it will be exciting to see what she’ll do this year and hopefully we’ll be seeing her in America at some point. It would be nice to have another Scot on the LPGA.
“Ever since I’ve been playing, I’d definitely say it’s in its strongest position at the moment, with Hannah doing well in college golf in the States. She’s got great platform and going down that route is great experience as she’ll be playing against the best players. When I was playing college golf, you were up against the same girls you are then facing when you turn pro. It will be exciting to see how she does this year.
“We also had Laura Beveridge having a great year last year and it’s exciting to see. I remember when I turned pro Laura had already been going for a couple of years, I think, and it’s taken her a little bit of time to enjoy her best year.
“A lot of the time you read in the media that this girl doing well is maybe just 20 and this and that. Yes, that happens for some girls, but for others it takes time and there is nothing wrong with that. I think everyone has their own journey.”
And what about the journey for her toilet seat, a prize from the title sponsor for winning in Japan? “I still need to get a house first, but they are going to wait for me, which is nice,” she reported with a cheeky chuckle.
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