There have been many words, utterances and expressions to describe 2020. And, let’s be honest, most of them involve the kind of coarse, colourful turn of phrase you’d tend to get at a social club full of squaddies. 

Gemma Dryburgh’s summing up of this trying, tiresome year is a tad more user friendly. “It’s just been very strange,” reflected the Aberdonian with a succinct summing up of, well, a strange few months.

That we have a major championship, the US Women’s Open, currently taking place less than a fortnight before good old Santa attempts a socially-distanced tumble down the lum, has only heightened the oddness of this very different golfing year. “It is a bit weird seeing a major championship on the TV just before Christmas,” added Dryburgh.

The 27-year-old would have loved to have played in the 75th edition of the championship. Instead, she is watching events unfold from her home in Beaconsfield near London and reflecting on a season of fluctuating fortunes, breakthrough moments, morale-boosting highs and motivation-sapping frustrations.

In this year of widespread, coronavirus-induced carnage and chaos, Dryburgh has, ironically, had one of her best seasons. What was she saying about 2020 being a strange year again?

During a stop-start, higgledy-piggledy schedule, the former Curtis Cup player posted two of her highest finishes on both the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour (LET) while claiming back-to-back wins over impressive opposition on the Rose Ladies Series. One of those victories, at Royal St George’s, saw her create a little bit of history as she became the first female winner of a professional event at this hitherto all-male bastion.

All in all, there has been plenty to be pleased about. Then again? “It’s just been very up and down,” said Dryburgh, who was fourth in the LET’s Bonville Classic in Australia at the start of the year and secured sixth in the LPGA Tour’s Drive On Championship in the summer. “Because of coronavirus, it’s like we almost pressed the pause button. With nothing really counting this year, and most players retaining what status they have for next year, it became hard towards the end to be honest. There was a strange vibe. 

"There was no re-rank either during the season, so, as the year went on, I couldn’t get into some events as the fields got smaller because of the shortening of daylight. That was frustrating. Even my sixth place finish (in the LPGA Drive On Championship) had an element of frustration to it as well. If you finished in the top-10 in certain events you got into the US Women’s Open. But, as that event was a new addition to the schedule to fill the gaps created by the pandemic, it didn’t count for qualification.

“There was an element of going through the motions a bit as things went on. I need something to give me focus and drive. A couple of years ago, for example, I needed a top 25 finish in my last event to avoid dropping into stage two of the qualifying school. I managed it and got straight into the final of the q-school and regained my card. 

"I think that has been missing this year, that feeling of ‘I need to do this’. It’s like you need a bit of jeopardy to get the buzz. That’s why you are in professional sport, for the moments that really drive you on.”

Establishing herself on the biggest stage of the women’s game has not been easy. Having earned her place on the LPGA Tour in 2018, though, Dryburgh continues to find her feet in a hard, competitive golfing environment that has a daunting strength in depth that is deeper than a burial at sea.

“I think a lot of people perhaps underestimate just how tough it is,” added Dryburgh. “A lot of European girls come over here and struggle. It can be a bit of a culture shock. I went to university in the US so I felt more comfortable. But it’s still a major step. In my rookie year, there was a bit of star gazing. You would see players you admired and now you are on the range hitting balls next to them. At the beginning I was a bit like ‘should I be here?”. But everyone on the tour deserves to be there. I earned the right and I began to believe in myself.”

Dryburgh came on to the LPGA Tour just as her decorated, celebrated compatriot, Catriona Matthew, was calling time on her US campaigning. “I’m the only Scot now and I want to prove that I can carry the flag,” she said. Roll on 2021...