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Local instructor, star pupil off to Women's Open

JULY 4, 2010, THE NASHUA TELEGRAPH - BY: WAYNE MILLS Seth Dichard, Nashua born and raised, grew up in the game of golf.

He had ambitions as a young man to play professional golf but a few things along the way changed his career path.

His dad Mike, owned an off-course retail store in Nashua (Mike Dichard's Golf USA) and the family were members at Nashua Country Club where Seth took up the game at age 8.

Seth did well enough competitively as a young man finishing fourth twice in the New Hampshire state high school tournament while at Nashua High School.

He attended Plymouth State College for a year before deciding he wanted to see where he could go as a player.

Knowing he needed better competition and a better climate to practice and play in, he enrolled in Pfeiffer College in North Carolina. Pfeiffer was working on being a Division II powerhouse at the time and Dichard learned pretty quickly that he wasn't going to cut it as a play-for-pay golfer.

"These guys were on a completely different level," he said.

After that realization he had an epiphany; to study what made the great players great in all aspects of their games and work at being a golf teacher.

By 2001 Dichard had come back to the area and taken a job as an assistant pro at Souhegan Woods Golf Club and eventually moving to Vesper Country Club in Tyngsborough, Mass.

With the pressure off, he began to really play well and that wasn't lost on the members.

One day in late 2001 a Vesper member, John Walshe, walked into the pro shop and approached Dichard asking him if he would give a lesson to his 17-year-old daughter Alison. That moment changed both Seth's and Alison's lives forever.

"Best move I ever could have made," Dichard said.

Dichard spent a few minutes watching her swing during the first lesson and knew that they would have to start over.

"I had to break her down and rebuild her," Dichard said.

This led to some clashing from the get go but Dichard stayed on her because he saw something in Alison that could be great. Alison chafed, saying at the time "that first year with him I probably played the worst I've ever played. After that, I started getting better."

After a year working together, it clicked for Alison.

She played No. 2 on the boy's golf team at Westford Academy and received enough attention to be recruited by colleges for a golf scholarship. Dichard thought that she should try to play at one of the big time Division I schools down South or out West but Alison wanted to stay near home so she accepted a scholarship to Boston College.

She played No. 1 on the BC team and won the individual Big East Championship.

She began to rethink her college enrollment and decided to look elsewhere for a challenge.

Wanting to combine academics, athletics and a warm climate, she decided to go to Tulane University in New Orleans, La.

After getting started at Tulane, tragedy struck New Orleans.

Hurricane Katrina devastated the Tulane campus flooding it under many feet of water. No one knew when the campus would reopen. Alison's college environment was in chaos, which is never good for a golf game. Again, it was time to move on.

This time Alison went for the big time and accepted a full scholarship to the University of Arizona in Tucson where the worst thing that happens is that it gets hot. It is at Arizona that Alison got as hot as the weather.

She played No. 1 on a her team, made NCAA All-American, won several individual college tournament titles and capped off an incredible 2007 with a victory in the 105th North South Amateur played on historic Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina - one of the most prestigious amateur events in the U.S.

After her North South victory, Alison received a congratulatory note from LPGA Hall-of-Famer Pat Bradley.

In an incredible historic irony, Bradley was also from Westford and her first golf teacher was the late John Wirbal of Nashua Country Club.

In 2008 Alison was a member of the victorious Curtis Cup team where all she did was go 4-0 in her matches. She also competed in the Kraft Nabisco in '08 and qualified for the US Women's Open.

It was time to realize a dream and turn professional.

She played on the Duramed Futures Tour in 2009 where she finished ninth on the money list earning her conditional playing status on the LPGA Tour for 2010. She has again qualified for this year's U.S. Women's Open which will be her third appearance in the event.

Dichard has remained Alison's only instructor through her trials, travels and tribulations.

When separated they would talk on the phone and when she was home they would get together for tune-ups.

While Alison was busy advancing her career, so was Seth.

In 2004 he moved from Vesper to the World Golf Center in Hudson at the invitation of owner David Friel to run their golf school. In 2005 he went on his own, opening the Seth Dichard Golf School at World Golf.

In the fall he works with famed instructor Jim Suttie in Naples, Fla., and in the winter operates indoors at the Tyngsborough Sports Center.

This coming week Seth Dichard will pack up the family (wife Cynthia and baby boy Logan) and head to storied Oakmont Country Club outside Pittsburgh, Pa. for the U.S. Women's Open Championship where he will work with Alison to formulate a plan to play one of the most difficult golf courses in the country.

The Dichard/Walshe team has been a success everywhere they've gone so far.

Who knows, maybe they can hit the jackpot and bring a national championship trophy home to the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire area

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