In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, David Drysdale reflects on chasing his maiden win and the evolution of his relationship with his wife as he makes his 500th start on Tour.
It’s hard to get my head round that I’m about to play my 500th event on Tour. I know how lucky I am to have been able to play golf for a living for a long time. I haven’t been to Q School since 2008 which is one of my biggest achievements, because I went a number of times before that and it is not the place you want to be. A lot of the top players will tell you how much pressure there is when you are trying to win a Major or win a point in a Ryder Cup and there is no doubt about that, but some of those boys should try going to Q School and play for their livelihoods. Playing for the ability to pay your mortgage, support your family and continue the only career you have ever known definitely puts the game in a whole new light, the kind you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy!
Until I have won I don’t think I will ever be able to say that I have fulfilled my ambitions. I was going to say fulfil my potential, but I am not sure that is the right way to say it. I could argue that I have fulfilled my potential because even when I was 16 or 17 years old, I had no real ambition to be a Tour pro. It just didn’t seem like a real option to me. I didn’t take my first flight until I was 19 years old and that was a last minute thing because I got a call from a Scottish guy who was sponsoring an event at Wentworth who asked if I could come down and play in a pro-am. I said yes and actually won. That was a real eye-opener in terms of what life as a golf pro could be, but even then I don’t think I realised what kind of life it could afford me. Now I take a minimum of 50 flights a year and fly around the world. You still have to pinch yourself occasionally.
I’ll never be truly satisfied as a professional until I have won on Tour, but the life it has given me is one of extreme fortune to be quite honest. I have been doing this for nearly 20 years and have enjoyed experiences and made friendships around the world which most people can only dream of. I know how lucky I am in that respect.
Qatar in March this year was the best opportunity for me to get that first win by a long way. It was very strange in the weeks after it because the world basically stopped due to COVID-19, so I’ve had a long time to think about it.
In the days after Qatar we waited in Dubai to see if India was going ahead and at that time I was just hoping that we could keep playing. I had not been playing well for a long time and I was very keen to play the next week because it felt that I had turned the corner. I had a few equipment issues last year and just hadn’t played well, so Qatar was the first time in a long time that things clicked back into place. When I got back home I watched the Qatar play-off on Sky Sports. It was tough to watch Jorge making those putts. He literally couldn’t miss. On the first play-off hole, the fact that he got up and down from the fairway bunker was unbelievable. But that’s what Jorge does. He is an absolute machine on the long putts and to be fair to him, every single putt he made in the play-off was right in the middle of the cup. He made the putts and deserved to win.
I can’t actually remember my first event on Tour. It was either a Scottish PGA that I would have qualified for through the Tartan Tour or somewhere like Madeira where I might have got a last minute call to go and play, but I first got my card at the 2001 Qualifying School at San Roque in Spain. I remember playing with Nick Dougherty in the final round and we both got our cards for the first time.
I did ok in my first year. I kept my card and had a few great learning experiences. I actually played in the final group on the third day of the English Open at Forest of Arden with Darren Clarke that year and always remember that. Darren was a superstar and a very intimidating presence, and he also left me for dust and won the tournament, but it always struck me that he was great to play with and how much he helped me. I’m more looking forward to playing Forest of Arden again than I am making my 500th appearance this week.
I sometimes look back and wonder what would have happened if I had won that week when it was the start of my career and I wasn’t old enough to understand how hard it is to win on tour. Would I have won a load more? I look at some of the young guys who come out on tour and win straight away – it’s happened this year with kids like Sami Välimäki and Rasmus Højgaard – and I realise that they will never truly know how hard it is to win on Tour. The simple answer to that is obvious: They are probably better players than me, but at the same time they have had a certain amount of good fortune to win so early because they will never look at winning the same way as me.
I lost my card in 2003 and then went into my ‘yo-yo’ years where I was on the European Tour one year and then the Challenge Tour the next. Those were the toughest because there were a lot of visits to Q School and as I said earlier, when you are making almost annual trips to the School you are probably not enjoying the game as much as you should. It generally means you are not playing well enough for an entire season and then you finish a stressful year with the most pressure you will ever face in your career at the Q School.
But, because it’s golf, you still manage to have good moments during those times. I won twice on the Challenge Tour in that period and hit maybe the best shot of my career in the 2004 Challenge Tour Grand Final at Golf du Medoc in Bordeaux. I started outside the top 15 but played really well and managed to get into a play-off. I remember going to the 18th tee for the first play-off hole thinking I needed to win the tournament to win my Tour card so the pressure was pretty big.
I hit a decent drive but still had three iron into the green over a front bunker with the pin tucked away. As soon as I struck it I knew it was good, and it stopped three feet from the hole. I was playing against Matthias Eliasson and he had found trouble off the tee, so I thought it was game over but he then proceeded to get up and down for par from 120 yards so I still had to make the three foot putt to win! There would be something special about having a three-foot putt to win for the first time on my 500th appearance this week but let’s not hold our breath. But you never know and that is the beauty of this game.
Anyone who knows me will be aware that I hate being the centre of attention so even being asked to write this blog was a little bit strange. Thankfully, I have a very special person at my side and that is Vicky, my wife and now caddie (and manager, and inspiration, and mentor and everything else). Vicks is more excited about me making it to 500 than I am!
Vicky has travelled with me for most weeks for the majority of my time on Tour so we have always been a pretty good team, but our relationship has grown even closer since she started caddying for me. It came about as something of a fluke because there was one week in South Africa, at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek at the end of 2016, where my regular caddie couldn’t make it because of family issues, so Vicks started because I didn’t have anyone. It’s one of our favourite places in the world and we finished 11th that week. I tried another couple of guys on the bag but I started to realise that I was relying on my caddie way too much, which made me quite lazy. I found that I lost a bit of focus, so Vicky and I decided to give it a go as full-time husband and wife as well as player and caddie. It has been a lot of fun (most of the time!) and now we are very comfortable on the golf course together. I’m not sure I’d be writing this nicely about her if she had been carrying the bag since 2002, but given the stage we are at in our lives, and the stage I am at in my career, it has worked out perfectly for us. Put it this way: If you are a Tour professional for over ten years and you find one person that you can share everything with and not want to kill each other at the end of the week, then you have found the perfect match, and I certainly have that with Vicks.