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NORTON, Massachusetts – A dual citizen of both the United States and Ireland, Westford native Alison Walshe is enjoying being back in the Bay State as much as anyone can during the Pandemic. A name synonymous with success among Women’s Amateur Golf in the state, Walshe is Francis Ouimet Memorial Tournament Champion, a two time Boston Globe player of the year in 2002 and 2003, and the 2003 Grace Keyes Cup winner. She also was a Boston Herald All-Star in 2002 and 2003, the 2003 Lowell City’s Women Championship winner, the 2003 Massachusetts State Junior amateur Champion, and medalist at the 2003 State High School Championship. Walshe joined us for an interview to walk through her playing career and her career working in the golf industry.
This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity and clarity.
Mass Golf: What have you been up to so far during the pandemic?
Alison Walshe: When it all started, I think I just traveled back from Florida around St. Patrick’s Day. I was kind of like “ I shouldn’t be around anyone right now” because I had been traveling. I was pretty low key, I locked myself up the first couple weeks. I’m not the type of person to stay inside all day so that first month was tough with the bad weather. I’m just trying to make the most of it. I’ve been working out, reading, watching a lot of Netflix. Pretty much the same as everyone else, I’m just holding my breath and waiting.
MG: So you began playing at 10, talk to me a little bit about growing up in the game and how learning it in Massachusetts may have affected how you play the game?
AW: I grew up at Vesper CC up in Tyngsboro, Mass. My dad and my brother were big-time players so I was just following them. To be honest I didn’t like golf when I first started. No girls played, it was the summertime I wanted to go to the pool, stuff like that. I’ve always been a really good athlete though, name a sport and I’ve played it. And so golf came kind of easy to me and the competitive juices kind of spilled over. It made me enlist in some junior events.
Since we’re talking Mass Golf Pippy O’Connor was a huge influence, she kind of ran our junior golf back then. She instilled in my parents back then that “This girl had some talent” and to push me if I wanted it. It went from there and I developed into high school golf then it went into national amateur stuff from there, which developed into college recruitment. It all started in Massachusetts Junior Golf.
MG: You had plenty of experience playing in Mass Golf (WGAM at the time) events as an amateur golfer, how important were state-level competitions to you at the time?
AW: I guess ignorance is bliss in that aspect. I didn’t realize at the time but I do now. If I won something I was like “Okay I won, not a big deal.” I expected those things, whereas now you know what is and what isn’t expected. It built my competitiveness, it let me know where I stood. Once I was winning at the local level, that’s where I took it to another level and started playing in some national stuff.
MG: You had an extremely interesting collegiate career, going from your Freshman year at Boston College then on to Tulane and what happened next is extremely unique in and of itself .. but why the initial switch?
AW: My college story is absurd. My rookie year on the LPGA every interview was that. I went to Boston College, growing up around here my family were all fans, I wore the gear growing up so I was a huge BC person. It was comfortable, I loved the school, it’s a great academic school. I had a really successful year there, but it just wasn’t competitive enough for me. Going into BC I peaked a little bit and started getting more attention from bigger programs. When I was at BC I knew I wanted to play Pro Golf, and if I did with my resources there in the cold weather and wanting to be competitive I needed to step it up. It was a really hard decision. I remember crying about it but I chose to do it. My coach, there was awesome too and he supported it. I was really good friends with the AD at the time too. Normally, if you transfer you have to sit out but they waived that. Tulane at the time was top 20 in the country but also a really good business school and I was trying to parallel the two. Then I visited, loved it, loved the team. I had a blast, and developed that program and made All-American there. Then Katrina hit and I had to go through that ordeal. When Katrina hit we sat out a year. They cut all the programs, and at that point, I was top ten in the country, which was a good thing because I had an opportunity to continue, so I opened up the recruitment process again and was able to go to Arizona.
MG: What was it like to have to sit out and not compete that year?
AW: We were down there when Katrina hit, so I came home from there and I think I was home for about two weeks. As athletes on hold, they didn’t really know what to do with us all. So we went to Dallas, I went to SMU (Southern Methodist University), basically all the athletes were placed in Texas and Louisiana. So we took classes at SMU, we didn’t compete and we were without our stuff. Just really weird experience. When the spring semester started we went back to Tulane, it was surreal. It gave me the time to realize what my goals were and do the recruitment process again. At that point my goals were golf stricken and I worked my butt off academically and got myself ready to be competitive and transfer to Arizona.
MG: Being so successful after all that is extremely impressive and even more so the fact that in 2008 you were a member of the Curtis Cup team. What was that experience like?
AW: Yeah I was lucky. When I went to Arizona I won a ton of golf tournaments, which puts you on the radar of the amateur golf scene. Then I won some really big national amateur championships. Then the goal when you’re at the top of those amateur rankings is those USGA team events. That was a huge goal of mine. Once I made that initial list I was so excited and when I got that official selection I was extremely honored. We left the NCAA championships and flew to St.Andrews to compete. It was awesome and I am really fortunate that it was my first Curtis Cup. We got the whole R&A experience and we had an unbelievable team and we won, it was pretty surreal. Most of those teammates are still some of my best friends today. I talk to almost all of them regularly.
MG: After making it onto the LPGA Tour on your first try, seemingly making it look easy, just how tough was the competition on the Symetra Tour during that season and was your goal to make it to the LPGA Tour on the first shot?
AW: I waited that summer because I was on the World Amateur team that year. I stayed amateur all summer which a lot of girls didn’t, and I picked up on the Symetra Tour in the fall. It’s a grind, it’s not enjoyable. You’re learning what you like to do and don’t like to do in terms of competing, but you’re driving all over the place, you’re in your car, you’re trying to save as much money as possible. At the same time, you’re trying to excel too. I was fortunate to get my card in that first year and move on. If it wasn’t for that tour though, when I say it was a miserable it definitely was at times, but it helped me tremendously.
MG: Can you give us an inside look at what playing on the LPGA Tour has been like? What were some of your goals right off the bat?
AW: The LPGA Tour is awesome. The first few years you’ve got a hitch in your step, you’re traveling all over the world, you’re young. I was like this is awesome. You almost feel like you are royalty traveling to all these cool places and you get all these great things like player dining. It’s a grind but it’s really cool to have the opportunity. It’s fun to interact with some many different types of people and endorse yourself. You’re literally a traveling circus with your friends. That part is fun, the stories are endless. I can’t complain because it was an unbelievable experience. You’re literally traveling Mondays and you’re doing laundry on Mondays and then practice rounds and pro am’s and then teeing it up and doing it all again the following week. It was a grind but it was really really fun.
MG: Are there things that you think you will never take for granted now that you’ve had this incredible experience?
AW: Playing so many great and different golf courses every week is insane. You come out to golf courses now and you don’t realize it that in those moments that these amazing courses have been preparing for your arrival for a year almost. You get treated and dined and wined every week by hosts and volunteers, they view us as celebrities and that’s something that I don’t take for granted. The type of relationships alone and the people who are in my network of friendships through golf Pro Ams is pretty unbelievable. And of course the friendships with teammates and peers on tour, you go through every emotion and every lifestyle with them and you know each other inside and out.
MG: You talk about all these great tracks you’ve been fortunate enough to play, do you have a favorite course?
AW: Yeah the U.S. Open every year is awesome so it’s hard to say a favorite track on that because it changes every year. Stateside I love Pinehurst No. 2. Around the world, if I were to say, the Sandbelt courses in Australia are unbelievable. Royal Melbourne and Metropolitan, all those courses over there are pretty unbelievable.
MG: Can we ask what your favorite in Massachusetts would be?
AW: That’s a tough one, when I was growing up around here I didn’t appreciate or know the clubs around here super well so I didn’t play a lot of it. But now that I am back here I know all the top courses around here and it is a goal now to get around and play them. I think Myopia is unbelievable, I played it last year for the first time in the peak of season and I was blown away. And of course Vesper. Vesper is the style of course I love. Donald Ross old school is kind of my vibe. Old Sandwich is pretty sweet, Coore and Crenshaw course that kind of goes along with those Sandbelt aspect of Australia. I enjoy that Links(y) / Parkland golf course.
MG: What are you most proud of in your career?
AW: I’m most proud of the longevity and accomplishments. Coming from a great amateur career some people kind of dive off, I think I was really able to work hard and maintain it and also enjoy it. In the last couple of years, I found that I was letting my enjoyment affect my golf and was able to step back a bit. I’m just proud of my awareness and my ability to compete. I’m glad I was able to step back a little and start to enjoy it again more.
MG: Where do you go from here?
AW: So that has been a question for a couple of years. I moved back, got married, and started to step away from playing full time. I was grateful for this opportunity that I’m in right now. PXG approached me and I didn’t know if I wanted to be in the golf industry but I’m still gonna compete. This is obviously a very weird year to compete. I was supposed to play in the first LPGA event, a team event but that has since been canceled So going from here I’m gonna keep building my resume. I still wanna kick-ass in anything I’m going to do. So I want to find some sort of a career to keep going hard at. Working in the golf industry has taught me a lot. Our resumes are weird coming from the Professional side because a lot of people are intimidated seeing it and they do not realize that there is so much around the business side of things that my time as a Professional golfer is applicable. I’m glad I’m working for PXG and building a corporate resume into this. They’re a cool company. I love relationships and sales. I’m very much a people person. I would love to be involved in tournament sponsorship and corporate relationships. I’d love to aid in any aspect of that.
MG: There are at least 8 young women from Massachusetts who have made commitments to play Division I golf in the fall, which is a significant number in the state. Can you comment on the level of competition in Massachusetts and what you experienced vs what it is now?
AW: Back then, even outside of Mass and incorporating New England there were three or four of us that were cream of the crop. We all knew each other or knew of each other. I’ve noticed the amount of players that are starting to develop and go D1. I think the sport is hopefully building and when I was playing it was very much a guy sport up here. I think Mass Golf has done a great job. Everyone I’ve talked to up here about it is all about it. Obviously, the resources there are working. I think it’s just building which is great. There are a few girls that are playing at my club that are developing pretty great. I’ve watched them play since they were little and up to now and they will ask me a bunch of questions themselves or their parents. They are asking the right questions and I let them know they are doing the right things and they love it.
MG: Best advice you would give any young golfer out there?
AW: Love it, because if you don’t love it you won’t work hard at it. Don’t let anyone else push you. I think that’s what drove me. My parents never once told me to go practice, I was always begging them to let me go. I think if you love it you’re gonna work hard at it. And if you work hard at something you will be successful in your own way.
MG: OK, we have some fun rapid-fire questions to wrap this up….
MG: Twitter or Instagram?
AW: Trending towards Instagram.
MG: Dogs or Cats?
MG: Coffee or Tea?
MG: Favorite club in your bag?
MG: If you could’ve gone pro in any other sport, what would it be?
MG: Favorite holiday?
MG: Sock tan or farmers tan?
MG: Biggest pet peeve?
MG: Favorite course to play?
AW: Vesper CC