May 16, 2010–Don Welch was truly one of the old guard of golf professionals who helped put Las Vegas golf on the map in the heydey of Las Vegas. Welch passed away May 10 in Las Vegas at the age of 77, and will be missed by family, friends and the Las Vegas golf community at large. Welch was the head professional at the old Desert Inn Golf Club in the 1960s and 1970s, and then also worked at the old Dunes Country Club, before retiring. Fellow Las Vegas golf professional Jerry Roberts remembers Welch fondly.–By Brian Hurlburt.
"Don was a quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of operator, and was very eifficient in everything he did," says Roberts, who worked for Welch at the Desert Inn from 1973-1975. "He was instrumental in running a lot of golf tournaments, and he always did it in a quiet manner but he got the job done right. He was a great boss, and was more of a mentor than a boss. He never got upset. If he thought you could do something better he just described how to do it and didn't give you hell for it. He was just a real good administrator, and had a lot of confidence in his staff, because, I assume, he had a lot of confidence in himself." The service for Welch is Monday, May 17.
According to his obituary, Welch was born Feb. 25, 1933, in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, but grew up in Whitefish, Mont. He was an outstanding high school athlete and was inducted into the Whitefish High School Athletic Hall of Fame. Don was a graduate of the University of Montana in Missoula, where he continued to perfect his golfing skills. He was later inducted into the Montana Golf Hall of Fame. In 2004, Don was awarded the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award. In the span of a nearly 40-year career, he was involved in coordinating, hosting or participating in most of the major golf tournaments in Las Vegas. Don is survived by his wife, of 54 years, Peggy; sons, Dan Welch and wife, Kim, and Jamie Welch; daughter, Miki and husband, Jeff Reid; beloved grandchildren, Jake and Paige Reid; sister, Janice Gerzema and husband, Larry, of Valparaiso, Ind.; brother, Jim Welch and wife, Anita, of Whitefish; and numerous nieces and nephews. Don was an avid supporter of the local Junior Golf programs; especially those that helped the children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to play the game he loved so much.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Don's memory to The Junior Golf Academy at Desert Willow, Attn: Pam Bowers, 263 Delfino Way, Henderson, NV 89074. Services will be at 10 a.m. Monday, May 17, at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 2300 Sunridge Heights Parkway, Henderson. In recent years, Welch was spotted at some major Las Vegas golf events, including a VegasGolfer Magazine Fairway Awards event a few years ago. Upon being informally introduced by the emcee, the crowd of 200 instantly stood up and gave him a standing ovation, nice recogntion for a lifetime of service to the game of golf. He also attended the annual Southern Nevada Chapter, PGA of America, annual awards dinner in 2009 at TPC Summerlin.
During the time Welch worked at the Desert Inn, the course was the site of the PGA Tour's Tournament of Champions, an event that continues today from those early beginnings. The Tournament of Champions was won by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and many others during the time it was played in Las Vegas. The event then moved to La Costa before finding its current home in Hawaii. But it was the early pros such as Howard Capps and Don Welch who helped make the Tournament of Champions possible. Photo from obituary.