We talked over a pint. Gemma Dryburgh and I had to.
We talked about her golf. There was the 60-foot putt that she needed to drop, and it did. There was the final-round final grouping that included current world No. 1 Jin Young Ko and all of the Golf Channel cameras that typically follow a final-round final grouping that includes Ko. There was the ridiculous, two-week, eight-round Q Series that she grinded through in December in Alabama to secure LPGA Tour playing rights this year.
But Gemma and I had to talk beer, too. (And, as it turns out, we talked liquor, too.) Last November, the 28-year-old Scotswoman secured a sponsorship deal with the Scotland-based St. Andrews Brewing Company — yes, they sent her a few cases after the agreement — and so I, also a beer nut, reached out to her over Twitter with a thought:
What if we talked golf and beer, over beers?
And over about a (happy) hour this week, over Zoom — she was at home, and I’m in New York — we did just that. Below is a condensed version of our chat. Cheers!
Nick: Gemma, we’ll just start out. I have a beer, you have a beer. Cheers.
Gemma: Yep. I’m going to open mine actually; I haven’t opened mine yet. Here we go.
Nick: Yeah, that sounds good.
Gemma: There we go. Cheers.
Nick: There we go. All right. So what beer do you have there?
Gemma: I have the classic IPA they have. But yeah, it’s good. I don’t actually usually like IPAs, but I like theirs so it’s a good match.
Nick: All right. I’m drinking — so I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I am drinking a beer from my hometown. It’s Sprecher.
Gemma: Oh, cool.
Nick: And it’s an IPA.
Gemma: Nice one. I like the can.
Nick: So, yeah, one of the reasons, along with your golf this year, that I wanted to reach out was for the brewery. And so if you could tell me, how did that partnership happen? Did they reach out to you? You reach out to them?
Gemma: Yes. Well, I managed to qualify for the Women’s British Open last year at Carnoustie, and they were the sponsor, the beer sponsor for the Women’s Open. So my manager actually came up when I qualified and he managed to meet Phil, who is the CEO of St. Andrews Brewing Company. So he managed to meet him and kind of connect, and kind of obviously being Scottish, they’re obviously big into golf. That kind of matched quite well. So it kind of went from there, really.
Nick: What was your reaction when you heard that a brewery — had you had their beers before or anything like that?
Gemma: I had, yeah. I had had theirs. And I like their beer. I’ve been to St. Andrews quite a bit, and I’d always had their beer whenever I went to a pub or anything. And I think my parents were even drinking the beer that week at the Open, so it matched pretty well. I love beer so it was kind of a really good — when my manager told me that it might happen, I was like, yes, make it happen. I want some free beer.
Nick: I’ll take it, right?
Nick: You went to Tulane, right?
Nick: That’s a very American city — New Orleans. With all the culture, the food, the drink, the Bourbon Street, what was that experience like for you there?
Gemma: Yeah, it’s great. I loved New Orleans so much because the French Quarter, obviously, it’s kind of European-ish kind of architecture and stuff, and just the fun of a city, I think drew me there. And yeah, just loved it.
Nick: We’re obviously having a beer here again. We can take our …
Gemma: Yes, take a sip.
Nick: Speaking of that, did you ever have a hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s?
Gemma: Just a few. Yeah, definitely had a few of them there. You only need a couple, I’d say, because they’re quite strong.
Nick: Did you ever have a beignet at Cafe Du Monde?
Gemma: Yeah, we — it’s funny because when you live there, you don’t really go there unless people are kind of visiting, because obviously very big tourist trap. But there’s actually another place on Royal Street called Cafe Beignet that not many people — I maybe shouldn’t be sharing this. The tourists don’t know about it, and it’s much quieter, and you get the same beignets, which is great.
Nick: So we’ll talk a little bit about your year on tour last year. I was very interested to see at the Pure Silk Championship last year that you had a 60-foot putt that went in, and it essentially kept you going on tour last year. (The tournament was the last before a “reshuffle” for priority status into tournaments, and Dryburgh was on the brink.) What was that like to have a monster — you know, it wasn’t a tap-in.
Gemma: It was pretty, pretty special, to be honest. Me and my caddie went crazy. I don’t think anyone — obviously, this is an afternoon on a Friday, and all the people are kind of — I finished on the ninth hole, so the fans are kind of walking past, not really bothered by what you’re doing. But we knew it was a big deal, and I was like, I need to make this to even have a chance to make the cut. So as soon as it went in — it was kind of tracking the whole way. I think my caddie thought it was going to go low. But from my angle, I was like, that’s going in the whole time. And thankfully it did. But me and him kind of did like some sort of chest-bump high-five — I don’t know what it was, but we went crazy.
Nick: You have to come back the next day to play, but is there any kind of celebration that night knowing that, hey, we’re going to be in more events now?
Gemma: Well, it was actually quite a stressful afternoon because the cut was kind of teetering between — I can’t remember if it was even or one-under, something around that, but I was basically out of it, in, out of it, in, and then so the whole afternoon, me and my caddie were very stressed, I ended up going to dinner with some friends, which was great and distracted me a bit. And then eventually that night we realized we were good to go. But yeah, not too many initial celebrations, just because we had to get up early the next day.
Nick: If we could bounce ahead to Portland and one of your breakthrough moments for sure on the LPGA Tour. You’re in a final grouping with some serious star power, especially now with Jin Young Ko being world No. 1. Tell me what Saturday night or Sunday morning were like?
Gemma: Yeah, ended up in a very good final group, which was my first-ever final group on a Sunday. So as you can imagine, I was quite nervous. I guess I kind of had the mentality that I had really nothing to lose because I mean, everyone’s expecting Jin Young to win or Carlota Ciganda (the other player in the grouping), not me. So just kind of taking that into account and saying, OK, just, you know, one shot at a time, as they say, and like, just take it one shot at a time and go for it. But I’d say the nerves did get to me, but I think next time I’m in that position, I’ll feel more comfortable and know what to expect a bit more. Just kind of having loads of cameras around you the whole day — usually when you see cameras, it’s like, oh, just toward an end of a round when you’re doing well or something, but having them there the whole round, then on-course commentators, it was definitely a different experience.
Nick: I want to talk a little bit about Q School and the eight rounds over two weeks — I’m blown away when I read stories about this. Tell me what that’s like. And then to know what’s on the line. And you came through; you did it. (Drysburgh tied for 22nd; the top 45 “graduate.”)
Gemma: Yeah, it’s brutal. It’s not a fun two weeks. Like, I enjoy golf, and I don’t enjoy Q school. I’m not sure anyone does, to be fair, but it’s just like you said, like you’re qualifying for your job the next year. So what you do that week is going to determine what you do the following year. And you know, everyone’s nervous. You can tell it’s different on the putting green before the round. Sometimes you’ll say hi to people, we’ll have a chat, but not at Q School. Like everyone’s kind of in their own little world. You can feel the nerves. But yeah, eight rounds, you just — like I remember the first hole and just being like, obviously very nervous when you first start. But OK, I’ve got eight rounds of this, so just calm down. If you make a bogey on the first, it doesn’t matter. You can get that back very easily in eight rounds.
Nick: Again, we’re having a beer here, but at 17 or 18 on round eight, but is that a moment where you’re like, I can finally have a beer? When you get that card after that amount of play, what is that like?
Gemma: Oh, it’s just relief, to be honest. I definitely did have a beer after that 18th hole in round eight. I definitely felt like I deserved it as well.
Nick: Some more beer questions! Having a drink or a couple of beers on the golf course is what a lot of golfers do, that’s what I do. Based on your high level of playing and your knowledge of beer, how should a golfer drink on the course?
Gemma: For performance or for enjoyment or both?
Gemma: I’d say I haven’t done much drinking on the course, but when I have, I’ve still wanted to play well. I’d say I get one, maximum two beers and sip them slowly. Like, I don’t think you can have much more than two and feel like you’re playing to the best of your ability, but maybe some people can. Maybe it calms them down. But for me, after probably one, it kind of goes downhill. So for performance, it’s not, not great.
Nick: Have you ever had — and we don’t need to get into too much detail — have you ever had, we’ll call it, a more spirited round?
Gemma: I haven’t actually. In the UK, we don’t really drink on a course. It’s obviously just after the round. So I know in America, that’s kind of the culture, isn’t it? Taking off and put some beers in the cart and have a few.
Nick: Sure, yeah, yeah.
Gemma: Yeah, I haven’t actually had a boozy round, which I will need to have at one point.
I’m not a huge fan of Bud Light or Coors Light or any of those. I feel like they’re more just like water.
What kind of beer should you have on the course?
Gemma: Yeah, probably a lighter one, I’d say. You know, kind of three to five, no more than five percent alcohol. And I’d say the lighter beer is probably best.
Nick: Who has the better beers: the United States or United Kingdom?
Gemma: Well, I’d say, like the general beers that you’d find anywhere, I’d say UK has better. I’m not a huge fan of Bud Light or Coors Light or any of those. I feel like they’re more just like water. But I’d say there’s a lot of really good craft breweries in America. It depends where you are, but it seems to be popping up everywhere.
Nick: Yeah, it’s definitely a big thing.
Gemma: Which we don’t really have too many. There’s one locally here and then obviously St. Andrews Brewing Company, which are great. But I don’t think we have as many as in the U.S.
Nick: Is it true that you can’t find a good Guinness in the United States?
Gemma: That is true. I’m not a big Guinness drinker, but I do know that it’s very different in the U.S. than in Ireland, so I don’t drink it in America.
Nick: What is better to have — I’m sorry that these are more boozy-type questions.
Gemma: Yeah, I like it. It’s good.
Nick: What is better to have — a flask in the bag or a cooler in the cart?
Gemma: Oh, that’s a good question. In the UK, I’d say flask, but I guess it gets chilly in America, too. It’s nice to have a wee dram — or a wee snifter, we call it — at the turn or, you know, during the round. Keep you warm. But then if it’s like a hot day, got the cart going, I’d say a cooler would be best. It depends on the situation.
Nick: I’ll end our interview with this: At the end of this year, “blank” will have happened to you on the golf course.
Gemma: That’s a good question. Blank would happen to me on the golf course. So end of this year. I don’t know, that’s a good question. So I guess it could be like …
Nick: It could be a victory, it could be a rise up the world rankings, it could be an amount of like top fives or something like that or …
Gemma: Yeah, I probably say I’ll have — maybe I’d say maybe a top 20 in a major.
Nick: So the follow-up question then would be “blank” would be the way that you would celebrate.
Gemma: I would definitely — I’m a lover of Prosecco as well. I like a Prosecco after the round, so I’d say we’d have lots of Prosecco and beer with family and friends afterwards.