ANDALUCIA, Spain — Things change quickly in professional golf. Every player that chooses this career knows that coming in. Success can turn to failure. Slumps can turn into streaks. Well-struck shots can find the bunker, bladed wedges can find the bottom of the cup. It’s just the nature of this fickle game and everyone who plays it has experienced the highs and lows that are as natural in golf as they are in life. You almost expect them.
So, when Gemma Dryburgh found herself at LPGA Q-Series two years ago in December 2021, she knew that things would end up alright. She’d either improve her status and get to play full-time on the LPGA Tour in 2022 or she’d find another tour to make a living on. Luckily, she didn’t need to make that choice, finishing T22 in Lower Alabama to retain her card for the next season. But she couldn’t have guessed what would happen next.
Fast forward to September 2023, the 30-year-old has now surpassed the $1 million mark in career earnings on the LPGA Tour, has become a Rolex First-Time Winner with her victory at the 2022 TOTO Japan Classic and is now making her first Solheim Cup appearance this week at Finca Cortesin in Andalucia, Spain. Things changed quickly and Dryburgh definitely wouldn’t have guessed this is where she’d be if you had asked her about her immediate future just under two years ago. But here she is, all thanks to her resilience, her grit and her willingness to ride the rollercoaster that is professional golf.
“I was with my parents, and we were looking back at a video from after I qualified through Q-Series in 2021. Thinking back to that moment, and then literally less than a year later winning on the Tour, I just probably wouldn't have believed you,” said Dryburgh, who won by four shots over Kana Nagai last November. “I knew I had the potential, but I wouldn't have thought that it would happen within the year if you asked me honestly.
“I’ve just concentrated on improving my game and I felt like I've done that since COVID really, since that setback and not getting my full card that year. But it's been amazing to finally get the win last year and backed that up with a few results since then, as well. It’s just been a bit of a process, which has been fun actually.”
That gradual improvement has led Dryburgh to the 2023 Solheim Cup and earned the LPGA Tour winner her first berth on the European team. She’s the seventh different Scot to tee it up in the biennial team competition, joining the likes of Kathryn Marshall Imrie, Catriona Matthew, Mhairi McKay, Janice Moodie, Dale Reid and Pamela Wright, and is the first to do so since Matthew played in Des Moines, Iowa in 2017. Dryburgh is delighted to be playing in Spain and representing her country for the first time as a professional, having done so four times as an amateur. She got the nod from Captain Pettersen at The Amundi Evian Championship, well before finishing solo eighth in France, a career-best major finish for Dryburgh, and had to make sure she – and her parents – kept the exciting news to themselves.
“It was actually at Evian and even before the weekend finish, she kind of came up to me and, and Paul, my caddie, and said, you've got nothing to worry about, and just excited to have you on the team,” Dryburgh explained. “That was a pretty cool moment. I wasn't expecting that at all. I thought she might wait and see how that few weeks went but she came out to watch me that week and was very complimentary of my game. So it was a nice feeling for her to give me the nod. I told my parents after, they obviously had to keep it quiet, but I let my parents know. They were emotional when they heard the news.”
Like many Europeans, Dryburgh has watched her fair share of Solheim Cups and pulled hard for the Blue and Yellow. She was even at Gleneagles in 2019 as a spectator when now-captain Pettersen buried that famous final birdie putt to clinch the Cup for Europe, making this moment that much more special for the Scot, who is very much looking forward to finally walk inside the ropes alongside her fellow Euros and who is excited to have the opportunity to recreate some of that same magic as one of Pettersen’s 2023 captain’s picks.
“(Suzann) has been a big part of the European team for years. I was there at Gleneagles when she put that famous putt in to win,” remembered Dryburgh. “To think back to that, and now she's my captain on the actual team is pretty surreal. (Gleneagles) kind of inspired me. I did know some of the girls on the team at the time and on the American team, too. But just watching them and competing with them that year, I was like, okay, maybe I can do this myself. It pushed me to make that a goal of mine in the coming years and it's just cool to actually do it now and be on the team myself. It’s kind of a weird feeling knowing that I was there as a spectator the last time it was in Europe, and now I'm going to be playing myself.”
Dryburgh first earned LPGA Tour Membership in 2018 and is now one of the veterans on the LPGA, even serving as a Player Director on the LPGA’s Board of Directors. Not including her victory, she has six career top-10 finishes and has earned $1,341,371 in her six-year Tour tenure, currently sitting inside the top 60 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Coming into this week and being referred to as a rookie has been a bit strange for the 30-year-old, but it’s something that she’s leaning into, understanding that while she might be as experienced as anyone week in and week out on Tour, the Solheim Cup is an entirely different animal.
“It is kind of weird because when I'm on Tour, I feel like almost a veteran now,” said Dryburgh. “To be called a rookie is a bit strange, but I really am a rookie, because it's my first experience of that. There are girls on the team that have been playing for four or five, six times. I do respect that I definitely am a rookie to the experience. But it's nice to have some years of experience on the Tour. I'm not exactly a rookie on Tour, just at the Solheim (Cup) so it's kind of an interesting vibe.”
As she readies herself for those first tee shots on Friday at Finca Cortesin, Dryburgh is just enjoying herself as much as she can in Spain. Not only is it such an honor to be selected to represent your country in a Solheim Cup, but it’s also a unique experience for the LPGA Tour and LET’s top talent, who typically spend their weeks on their respective flying solo when it comes to competing. And it’s getting to be a teammate again that the Scot is most looking forward to, especially as she has 11 great players just as hungry as she is to help Europe win its third straight Solheim Cup for the first time in the competition’s history.
“(I’m most excited about) playing on a team again,” she said. “We don't get to do that hardly ever in professional golf. I missed that a lot from my amateur days and playing other sports as well. Just having the team room aspect to it and all pulling for each other because week-to-week usually, you're just playing for yourself. Playing as a team and playing for something bigger than yourself, I think that's the biggest thing I'm looking forward to.”