U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S OPEN
Teaching Pros Step Back Into Competitive Arena July 10, 2018 | WHEATON, ILL. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Alicia Dibos, the director of instruction at 2020 U.S. Open host venue Winged Foot Golf Club, is pumped to return to competition. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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As Alicia Dibos was winding down her career on the LPGA Tour, she already knew what her next step would be.

“I didn’t make it out onto the Tour until I was 32, so after 10 years, I needed to start thinking about what I was going to do later in life,” said Dibos. “I have a very good eye for swings, and I love to teach. I love the whole aspect of teaching kids and teaching ladies the game.”

Dibos, a native of Peru who played on the Ladies European Tour before joining the LPGA Tour, began her transition in 1997, five years before she retired from full-time competition. She enrolled in the LPGA’s Teaching and Club Professional Division while competing on Tour and completed the program in time to earn her big break – a call from Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., where she has been on staff now for 16 years, the past eight as the director of instruction.

So how does this full-time instructor flip the switch and compete in a major championship again?

“Whenever you have the experience of playing in an Open, and you can share it with your students, it’s priceless,” said Dibos, 58. “Ever since the USGA declared this championship [in 2015], a lot of people have wanted to stay in shape, be prepared. It’s a great incentive.”

Despite this being the busiest time of the year for instruction at Winged Foot, a five-time U.S. Open venue that will host again in 2020, Dibos has carved out opportunities to prepare for this week’s inaugural championship at Chicago Golf Club.

“It’s challenging, but the members are very supportive of me playing competitively,” said Dibos. “I try to play at least once a week, and just playing Winged Foot is very good preparation for competing in any event.”

Dibos played in a Legends Tour event last month, the Suquamish Clearwater Legends Cup in Kingston, Wash., where she finished in a tie for sixth place behind Trish Johnson.

“The Suqaumish event was good preparation for me, and I also played in the Connecticut Open to help prepare myself mentally,” said Dibos, who tied for fourth behind Patty Sheehan in the 1994 U.S. Women’s Open. “I try to practice late in the afternoon, sneak in an hour to putt or do my drills. That’s what I did prior to coming here – it’s not easy, but I teach for a living now, and that’s my life.”

Dana (Lofland) Dormann, who won the 1985 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and played in 14 U.S. Women’s Opens, is more involved these days in the competitive arena than Dibos. Dormann has been a coach of the San Jose State women’s golf team since 2005, recently assuming the role of head coach. She qualified for this championship on June 12 at The Olympic Club’s Ocean Course, shooting a 68 to win the sectional medal by five strokes.

Dana Dormann, the 1985 U.S. Girls' Junior champion, is the head women's golf coach at San Jose State University. (USGA/Chris Keane)

“I was lucky to have [two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion] Kay Cockerill caddie for me that day on her home course,” said Dormann, 50, who also works as a private instructor. “I’m also good friends with [longtime LPGA Tour pro and fellow San Jose State alum] Pat Hurst, and she has been helping me prep; we play matches against each other. I’m trying to get in as much competition as I can.”

Dormann, who won twice in nine years on the LPGA Tour, played in the Northwest Women’s Open two weeks ago in Federal Way, Wash., where she finished in fourth place and was the low senior competitor.

“I had to make a real effort to make it happen,” said Dormann of the Washington event. “But I felt it was important heading into this to be in that competitive mode, where you have to make all the putts. I was happy to have the opportunity to tighten my game up a little bit.”

Like Dibos, Dormann cited the announcement of this championship as a strong impetus for her peers.

“There are players I know who had not been competing, and just having an opportunity to qualify has gotten them out playing,” said Dormann. “If you’re saying that I have a chance to compete for the national championship, well, I’m in. I’m going to keep my game sharp.”

Dormann thinks that playing this week will also help her on the flip side of the player-coach relationship.

“I feel like it’s going to make me a more effective coach, because I had been removed from the competitive arena for a long time for the most part,” said Dormann, who was a three-time All-America player for the Spartans. “I think I can have much more empathy for my players now than I might have had a couple of years ago.”

San Jose State players, take note of your coach’s resolution to be more tolerant of your mistakes.

Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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