Gemma Dryburgh and Grant Forrest have both come a long way since they represented Scotland in an amateur team event in Texas more than five years ago. The pair are about to set out in 2019 having secured seats at two of the top tables in professional golf.
As Forrest, one of the four Scots to graduate from the Challenge Tour last season, prepares for the resumption of the European Tour in Abu Dhabi next week, Dryburgh is getting ready for a second successive crack at the LPGA Tour.
At one point during a tough rookie season, the Aberdonian found herself wondering if she was out of her depth on the strongest circuit in the women’s game before having her confidence restored by an encouraging end to the campaign. She finished joint-21st in the Portland Classic, her final LPGA event of the season, then came through the Qualifying School for the second year running, passing a gruelling eight-round examination at Pinehurst on this occasion.
Dryburgh, who now lives in Buckinghamshire, is heading to Australia at the end of the month to start her new campaign and is quietly confident that she will cope better against the best players in the world second time around.
“Last year wasn’t how I imagined my rookie season would go, but I learned so much from it,” she said. “The start of the season was especially tough as I was missing a number of cuts in a row. It was a bit of a slog and I was mentally down and didn’t have much confidence in myself. I had never played on the LPGA before and I did think, ‘am I good enough?’ But towards the middle of the season I decided that I didn’t have anything to lose and needed to start enjoying my golf again.
“Anything better in the second half of the season was going to be positive and that definitely helped. Last year I was so worried about making cuts when I started out and looking at where I was on the money-list.
“This time around, I think I need to enjoy golf and enjoy myself as much as I can. It’s easier said than done, of course, but I will try to do that more, especially at the start of the season.”
She’s hoping the ISPS Handa Vic Open, a mixed gender event that is now being co-sanctioned by the LPGA rather than the LET, will be her opening event, closely followed by the Australian Women’s Open. “Unfortunately, I haven’t got straight into either of those events, so I’m going to play in the LPGA qualifier at the end of this month,” she added. “The winner gets into the Australian Open and there are eight spots up for grabs in the Vic Open. There are also 15 spots into three LET events out there, so I’m hoping to do well in that.
“My goal for the season is to finish in the top 60 on the LPGA money-list. That would be a really good improvement on last year and it would be amazing if I could get into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Florida in November.”
Based on the fact she’ll be playing for more money and more world ranking points than any of her compatriots, Dryburgh has the best chance – albeit a slim one – of forcing her way into contention for Catriona Matthew’s Solheim Cup team at Gleneagles in September. “It would be nice just to be considered as playing in the Solheim Cup is a huge goal of mine,” admitted the 25-year-old, who is among the band of Aberdeen Standard Invesments golf ambassadors. “I’m going to hopefully have a good start to the season and then that will hopefully give Catriona reason to consider me.”
It was the Spirit International, an event held at Whispering Pines, that Dryburgh and Forrest, pictured left, joined forces in a Scottish quartet that also included Ewan Scott from St Andrews and Mortonhall’s Rachael Watton. “That was good fun,” recalled Dryburgh, and it’s great that we are now both on tour.
“I like to be involved in Scottish Golf as much as I can. I still keep in touch with Clare Queen [the former LET player who is now the governing body’s performance director] and it’s nice to see men the same age as me like Grant coming through and doing well.”