This week during the Cognizant Founders Cup, Gemma Dryburgh will be donating 20 pounds or roughly $25 to the Alzheimer's Society in the United Kingdom for every birdie she makes. The money raised just ahead of Dementia Action Week will fund research and improve care for citizens living with dementia.
"Hopefully I can make lots of birdies and raise lots of money. I've been sharing the fundraising page with all the players, my friends, and family as well to raise as much money as possible," Dryburgh said.
Gemma's grandma, who is one of her biggest supporters, was diagnosed with dementia in February of 2020.
"She's always been very involved with my golf, always keeping up, and when I played soccer, (my grandparents) always used to come to my games. It's obviously harder with golf because there's more traveling but she and my grandpa were always there supporting," Dryburgh said.
Dryburgh, who just qualified for the U.S. Women's Open two days ago, hopes the campaign will get people with dementia to watch sports and still be involved in athletic communities.
"We have always had a very special bond, and I really hope I can give something back to give people like her and their families better care and support," Gemma said.
The Scotland native said her grandma had shown some early signs of forgetfulness but it became evident during the COVID lockdown that she was struggling to complete daily tasks on her own.
"My grandpa passed away in June 2019. Even when he passed away, he said I'm worried about Margaret. He started seeing symptoms before we had, and then after he died, it got a bit worse because she was living by herself," she said.
When dementia symptoms are caught early on, drug and non-drug treatments can slow problems with memory, behavioral and communication. Spreading awareness is the best way to educate those at risk for developing dementia.
"The main thing is the timeliness of the diagnosis. The earlier, the better. My grandma probably had symptoms two years before we actually got the diagnosis. It would've helped if we had known earlier," Gemma said.
During the beginning of her grandmother’s diagnosis, Gemma's family would send caregivers twice a day to her home, but they eventually wanted Margaret in a more secure environment. She has since been placed in a nursing home in London where she receives care 24 hours a day.
"It's nice to have that reassurance that she's not going to do anything crazy at home. Just knowing that she has a safe space and is not going to either put something on fire or do something silly," Dryburgh said.
The Dryburgh family relocated to London but Gemma and her grandma both agree it’s not as fun as their homeland in Scotland.
“I think she wished she was back in Scotland. She talks about Scotland the whole time,” Dryburgh said.
If she plays close to home, Gemma said she hopes to bring her grandma out to an LPGA or LET event. But for now, Margaret will be watching her granddaughter make birdies and support dementia from overseas.
"You can either donate a flatline or wait until the end of the week to see how many birdies I make, and hopefully, that bodes well," Dryburgh said.