by Bob Bostwick
David VonBrethorst was my friend.
I had only known him for a few years; I only saw him in person a half dozen times. But he was my friend. He could not help himself to be anything less.
And for your information, he was also your friend, even if you’ve never seen his face or heard his voice, and even if you’re seeing his name for the very first time.
Better known simply as Von, David passed away Nov. 11 after a months-long battle with stomach cancer. He was just 47. For the past three and a half years, he was the PGA head professional and, for the past five months, Circling Raven Golf Club’s acting director of golf at the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s casino and resort in Worley, Idaho.
Just as Von was like no other we’ve known at Circling Raven, his story is like no other we’ve ever heard. His rapid success among club pros is notable, as was his decision to become one, leaving a successful life as a pastor and as head track coach at Spokane’s Ferris High School.
His funeral service was held at Ferris on Nov. 26, a facility that can handle a large crowd being necessary. The man had friends.
“All he wanted to do was to be a golf pro,” said Gary Lindeblad, himself a 46-year PGA member, 32 of those years at Indian Canyon in Spokane and more recently a stint at Kalispel Golf and Country Club.
“I was giving him lessons, about eight years ago,” Lindeblad remembers. “He got better and better as a player and then wanted to enter the PGA program. I couldn’t talk him out of it. Leave a well-paying career for years of minimum wage, and at his age? Every time I saw him, I tried to talk him out of it, and every time I saw him, he was more determined than the last.
“In all my years in the game and in the business, Von was the most remarkable person I ever knew. I hired him at the country club. I also helped him get in, just barely, to the PGA program and school. As a staffer, he was an associate pro, on the bottom, and working mostly downstairs, in the bag room, and parking and cleaning golf carts. But once on the job, I had to move him into the pro shop and customer service, the members loved him too much for me to keep him downstairs.”
Von was truly remarkable, but he was also immensely capable regarding every duty the business required, and in 2019, when Director of Golf Dave Christenson had an opening for a head pro, Lindeblad referred Von for the job, even though he was still only an associate. First impressions were proven to be lasting ones, and Von got the job without the PGA card: Head Professional, Circling Raven Golf Club.
Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort CEO Laura Penney, herself an avid player, approved the hiring, coming to learn what a fine decision it had been.
“David VonBrethorst was instrumental in rejuvenating awareness and play at Circling Raven through fun and creative golf promotions, and different levels of golf instruction,” Penney said. “I admired David’s communication skills. He was effective in integrating golf through collaboration with the casino/resort. Despite David’s health struggles, he was always positive and upbeat.
“And I can honestly say that David was the best instructor I ever had.”
As acting director of golf this year, Von was “the Man” for getting an immense and successful load of work done toward the LPGA’s Epson Tour tournament in August at Circling Raven. Christenson had stepped away last winter, his successor also leaving the position in late spring. Von took over as interim director of golf while cancer was quickly taking over his insides.
Still, there was the business of the PGA card, and Von continued the effort, to include the looming PAT – the Player’s Ability Test. Of that, Lindeblad remains in awe.
“He played those two rounds in Boise, this past September. He was sick and weak, playing in wind, rain and cold,” Lindeblad said. “The player’s test is grueling and full of pressure even when you’re young and healthy. Von played those two rounds with the Grim Reaper for a caddie. He passed the test, determined to get it done even as sick as he was. That’s the greatest golfing feat that I have ever heard of.”
David VonBrethorst was also only weeks away from completing his PGA program, only weeks away from earning the card. But cancer and the Grim Reaper had their own schedule. Through Lindeblad’s recent efforts and plenty of support behind it, the PGA is moving to graduate Von and award his card posthumously.
David VonBrethorst, PGA. He is survived by his wife, Monica, by his daughters and their husbands, Abi and Houston Moczulski; Madi and Isaac Casebolt; Ava and Coleman Grunion.
And he is survived by his friends. That would be us, every one of us.
Bob Bostwick is a former sportswriter and member of the Golf Writers Association of America, a TV news anchor, political reporter and editor, and a publicist. He has won numerous local, regional and national awards as a journalist and filmmaker.