Melton and District Indoor Bowls Club lost one of its most prolific and successful bowlers with the death of former national semi-finalist Don Welch.
Don had been making good progress in the area qualifiers for Melton right up to Christmas, and according to friends appeared to have overcome a short illness before passing away suddenly, on Saturday, January 26, aged 77.
As well as a long-time member of Melton IBC, he plied his trade outdoors with Holwell Sports Bowls Club and Rothley BC in the summer, and represented the Leicestershire county team over many years.
His honours board tells his bowling story, with a haul of more than 70 club competition wins indoors at Melton, and dozens of county titles over the last 20 years.
He was crowned men’s over 60s singles club and county champion in 2017, but the highlights of his bowling career were two national semi-finals, in the Mixed Fours in 2003, and Over 60s Singles in 2013.
The latter achievement saw him shortlisted as a finalist for Sportsman of the Year at the Melton Times Sports Awards the following year.
Don helped to nurture talented young players at the club, including Chris Rodgers, who became another of Melton’s success stories. The two became good friends.
“Don was widely known and remembered for a combination of his ailments and his competitive edge which could always test the resolve of the most experienced opponents,” Chris said.
“Oh and let’s not forget his ability to gain a bit of luck!”
Chris added: “When Don skipped the mixed fours rink in 2003, the aggregate age of the three other young bowlers was less than his own at that time.
“But this was a testament to his character, always looking to develop up-and-coming bowlers of all ages.
“He was a fond friend of many, who will be sadly missed throughout the Leicestershire bowling community.”
Speaking in 2013 after his semi-final defeat Don had told the Melton Times.
“Chris came up to me after the semi-final and said they’ll have to find an over 70s competition for me next year!
“He asked me if this was now my biggest achievement, but it’s still probably the mixed fours because we got there with youngsters.
“But this achievement is right up there as a very close second.”
Don’s funeral takes place at Rothley Parish Church on Wednesday, February 27, at 11am followed by a private burial.
The wake will be held at the Royal Oak, in Rothley. Family flowers only.