By: Rob Harris
Courtesy of the Arizona Court of Appeals, Donald Welz may have a unique place in the annals of golf history. He may be the only person ever to have lost his job because he pocketed a fellow golfer’s golf ball.
The Arizona court’s opinion describes the scenario as follows:
“The events ultimately triggering Welz’s dismissal began on February 12, 2009, when Welz went golfing with three fellow officers. Welz’s group was apparently playing at a slow pace, and by the third hole they had already allowed two other groups to play through. After Welz’s group completed the third hole, and as they were leaving the green, a golfer in a group behind Welz’s group hit a shot that nearly struck one of the officers. In response, Welz picked up the golfer’s ball and placed it in his pocket. Upon failing to locate his ball, the golfer approached Welz’s group to ascertain if they had seen it. Rather than admit he took the ball, Welz denied having seen it, and pretended to help the golfer look for the lost ball.”
Welz’ employment problems began when he couldn’t resist sharing the story at work. As the court describes,
“the following day, Welz recounted the story in the police department’s locker room. Welz’s supervisor, Sergeant Harrold, heard Welz’s recitation of the events and asked if he was describing a theft. Welz responded, ‘Yeah, I guess we are. Call the cops.’ After confirming the story with the officers who had golfed with Welz, Sergeant Harrold initiated an internal complaint against Welz.”
Pursuant to the filing of the complaint, Welz provided a recorded interview, during which “he admitted picking up the ball, placing it in his pocket, and still having possession of it.” According to the court,
“he further explained that golf is a ‘gentleman’s game’ and, as a result, people ‘will do, if you will, sneaky shit like that to get their point across.’ Welz also admitted telling the golfer he had not seen the golf ball and pretending to help the golfer find his ball ‘to make the story believable, so to speak.’”
Following the interview, Welz–who already was on probation due to another incident–was suspended and thereafter dismissed, with the hearing officer upholding the termination:
“Since Welz avoided responsibility for his actions and tried to deflect his actions from misconduct to admirable behavior, since Welz’s excuses about his misconduct were lame and since Welz’s impulsive sarcasm when summoned to account for his misconduct has been a hallmark of his overall attitude, Chief Doyle had cause to implement serious disciplinary action.
“Welz’s misconduct … showed poor judgment and a lack of respect for the citizens of Lake Havasu City, his actions showed a callous disregard for the property rights of the citizens of Lake Havasu City, and his actions were in derogation of Police General Orders which required him to conduct himself in a manner that will reflect favorably upon the Police Department and to avoid conduct that is unbecoming to the Police Department such that it could bring the Police Department into disrepute or reflect discredit upon an employee.”