Doctor comes back to his roots

Peter Welsh tees off on the first hole at St Clair Golf Club yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Peter Welsh tees off on the first hole at St Clair Golf Club yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Peter Welsh wanted to come back and play golf at the New Zealand Masters Games as it was where it all first started with him.

Welsh (74) lined up at a chilly St Clair Gold Club yesterday in the first day of gold competition.

It was a trip down memory lane for Welsh, who has packed a lot in his life since he was born in Dunedin in 1943.

The 15-handicapper went to Otago Boys' High School and then went to the University of Otago medical school, training as a doctor.

At the same time he was a track athlete of note.

He was good enough to go to the Commonwealth Games in 1966 in Kingston, Jamaica and surprised everyone, including himself, by winning the 3000m steeplechase.

The three other athletics gold medallists at that Games were better known: Les Mills, Ron Williams and Val Young.

Welsh's victory was surprising, as he was not favoured to win.

Welsh beat his personal best by 11 seconds in winning the gold medal and was not far off setting a world record.

It was a shock to him. He went to the Olympics two years later in the rarified air of Mexico City and failed to get out of his heat.

At age 25, Canada then beckoned, to further his medical studies, and his running career went on the back burner.

He lived in Canada for the best part of 30 years, working as an orthopaedic surgeon, before he headed home to Wellington nearly 20 years ago.

Welsh said he first took up golf in Dunedin up at the Otago Golf Club, at Balmacewen.

''I started played when I was 11. Used to go across after they had all finished playing. The old greenie [greenkeeper] would wave at us and try to move us on,'' he said.

''But he was just having a laugh. He didn't mind.''

He loved the game and has always played it. He was looking forward to getting back to Balmacewen this week and playing on his old stamping ground.

He still worked part time as an orthopaedic surgeon in Wellington and had an interest in sports science.

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