Bill and Barbara Walsh, who spearheaded fundraising efforts at Philadelphia Country Club for many years, were honored with the first J. Wood Platt Distinguished Service Award at the 2012 Caddie-Scholar Brunch. As the first recipients of the award, it will named in their honor for perpetuity. Philadelphia Country Club has been the top fundraising GAP Member Club for the Platt the last nine years, topping $100,000 in yearly contributions eight times.
Sadly, Mr. Walsh passed away December 18, 2013. The below story speaks to the impact he had on others
Bill Walsh, former GAP President, J. Wood Platt supporter
By Fred Behringer
The Golf Association of Philadelphia lost one of its most vigorous advocates and outstanding volunteer leaders with the death of William T. Walsh, 91, of Devon, Pa., on Dec. 18.
Beginning in the 1950s, Mr. Walsh competed frequently and successfully in GAP championships and Team Matches. He served for a record 13 years on the GAP Executive Committee, including three years as president, and he is credited with spearheading the decision in 1996 to admit public golf clubs to membership in GAP.
He also played a prominent role in raising funds for GAP’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust. With Mr. Walsh as its Platt chairman for 10 years, Philadelphia Country Club led all GAP clubs in scholarship donations in nine of those years, and it holds the record for total contributions by a club.
In 2008, GAP awarded Mr. Walsh its Distinguished Service Award for exemplifying the spirit of golf at its highest level and making a substantial contribution to the game. By word and deed, he promoted golf’s traditions and ethics, volunteering immeasurable hours to advance GAP’s programs.
Recalling that it was Mr. Walsh who encouraged him to get involved in amateur golf administration, Frank E. Rutan, IV, president of the GAP Executive Committee, said, “We will be forever grateful for all the work he did on behalf of the Golf Association of Philadelphia and the J.Wood Platt Scholarship Trust.”
Clark O’Donoghue observed Mr. Walsh’s commitment to caddie scholarships as chairman of the Platt Trust for several years. “Bill Walsh was legendary on so many different fronts,” O’Donoghue said. “He was such a force not only with the fundraising at Philly Country Club, but he put a charge out there to the rest of GAP. The way he got Philly out there as the leader really spurred on other clubs to boost their efforts. He was in the forefront of that.”
Stan Engle, a past president of Philadelphia Country Club and a close friend of Mr. Walsh since the 1970s, said, “Bill’s the kind of guy who, from a golf perspective, I would never think about whether or not he would call an infraction upon himself or cause an infraction. He did the right thing in his life at all times, and he taught others through his examples. He was wond
Craig Ammerman, a past president of GAP who also served on the United States Golf Association Executive Committee, felt that Mr. Walsh’s quiet diplomacy in persuading member clubs to support the admission of public golf clubs to membership was his most important contribution to GAP — and that this vote ranks as GAP’s most important act. Mr. Walsh, he said, was likely the only person who could have made this happen.
Since welcoming public clubs, Ammerman pointed out, GAP has grown from 93 member clubs to 184. “This is staggering growth when you consider going through years when the economy was not very favorable to golf. It couldn’t have happened if we had not opened our arms to places where people play golf.”
Ammerman also credited Mr. Walsh for “really invigorating” Platt Trust fund-raising. “You won’t find a better gentleman in the world than Bill Walsh,” he said.
Mr. Walsh began playing golf at age 10 in New Jersey, caddied at Metuchen Golf & Country Club and won two championships — there and one at Plainfield Country Club — before moving to the Philadelphia area in 1955. He later added two club championships at Skytop Golf Course and seven at Philadelphia Country Club. He shared 10 GAP Father & Son championships with four different sons. He considered his 1991 GAP Senior Amateur Championship his most significant golf title.
A longtime member of Pine Valley Golf Club, Mr. Walsh sponsored the Walsh Open there in November for 50 years, beginning in 1958. The invitational outing for his friends began with one foursome and grew to 40 golfers each year. Mr. Walsh typically would risk $2 wagers in such friendly competition, and he collected most of the time. Conversations at times turned slightly acerbic. While a friend once said, “Bill has the sharpest needle of all,” Mr. Walsh could take the jabs as well with self-deprecating humor.
Mr. Walsh was a past president of the Philadelphia Seniors’ Golf Association, an organization of members of GAP clubs founded in 1920. He posted the low gross score 49 times in the group’s outings.
He also belonged to Jupiter Hills Golf Club and Tequesta Country Club in Florida.
Another aspect of Mr.Walsh’s love affair with golf involved keeping meticulous track of the courses he visited. A round at Augusta National in 2002 became his 500th different course.
He also counted the number of times he shot his age or lower. He did it for the first time at age 72 and exceeded it 300 times by the end of 2011.
Mr. Walsh worked all his golf activities into a schedule that included managing a business and serving as a leader in community, religious and professional organizations. He once estimated his daily attendance at Mass through 2011 totaled more than 23,500 visits.
Mr. Walsh was born in 1922 in Westfield, N.J. He graduated from the Villanova Commerce and Finance School and played on the golf and basketball teams. After serving as an officer in the Navy during World War II, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He practiced law only briefly before entering the insurance business with the Equitable Life Assurance Society in New Jersey. He came to Philadelphia for a promotion to agency manager, eventually establishing Walsh Associates in Wayne, Pa., currently operated by three of his children. Among many business commendations were his selection as Equitable’s National Honor Agent and membership in the company’s Hall of Fame.
Mr. Walsh maintained a close relationship with Villanova throughout his life, serving as president of the General Alumni Association and as a member of the University Development Council. He received the Villanova Loyalty Award and the Villanova Alumni Award.
As a longtime, heavily involved member of the Rotary Club of Ardmore, Pa., Mr. Walsh served as club president and as district governor for Southeastern Pennsylvania. He completed more than 40 years of perfect attendance.
Mr. Walsh is survived by his wife of 65 years, Barbara Straub Walsh, their 15 children, 29 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
One of Mr. Walsh’s sons, Paul “Chet” Walsh, a leading amateur golfer in the Philadelphia region, said of his father, “Whenever he got into anything, he really put everything into it, and this was especially true of the Golf Association. He really knew how to talk to people. The amount he raised for the Platt Trust at Philadelphia Country Club has been just amazing. When you mentioned something, he was already walking the walk. He never tackled anything without getting fully involved."