Gemma Dryburgh is making her debut in the TOTO Japan Classic and loving every minute of it. The Scot is back in Japan for the first time since the 2014 World Amateur Championships, which took part about five and a half hours away from Shiga at Karuizawa 72 East Golf Club. She represented Scotland alongside Eilidh Briggs and Gabrielle MacDonald, with the team finishing 40th overall in the amateur competition. Dryburgh doesn’t remember much about the golf, but she does remember the Japanese atmosphere – “so nice and welcoming” – and is feeling the same vibe at Seta Golf Course as well.
“They’re just happy to have us here. That was my main takeaway from 2014 and it’s the same this week. They’re so happy to have us here and we’re happy to be here,” said Dryburgh. And after starting the week with a 1-under 71, Dryburgh carded her lowest 18-hole score since the third round of the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open with a 5-under 67 on Friday, and sits in a tie for eighth with the weekend ahead of her. Dryburgh went without a blemish on the card despite only hitting six fairways, and felt especially fired up with her first holes of the day.
“I actually started off really hot, I probably could have birdied the first four. I think that second hole was the one I didn’t, and I just stopped literally a millimeter short of the hole and came backwards,” said Dryburgh, who did hit almost every green in regulation (17). “So could have had a really really really hot start but it was nice to start like that after a couple birdies last night as well.”
Dryburgh is currently 78th in the Race to CME Globe, and has earned one top-10 finish this season, a tie for fifth at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play, which became a career-best result. She’s now coming off a T27 finish at the BMW Ladies Championship, and spent the off week in Seoul before flying over to Japan for her 23rd event of the season. Dryburgh said her goal from the beginning of the year was to make her first CME Group Tour Championship, and her performance in Japan would certainly help towards accomplishing the feat. The current threshold to make the LPGA Tour’s season finale is 503.181 (No. 49 Inbee Park is not entered into the event). Dryburgh has earned 372.861 points entering the TOTO Japan Classic, and though she still has some work to do this week and at the Pelican Women’s Championship, making the CME Group Tour Championship is never too far out of her mind.
“Just hit it so much better today so that kind of gives me confidence for tomorrow,” said Dryburgh, who has been on Tour since 2018. “And also feel like I’m seeing the putts better as well, so hopefully I can continue that.”