Winning POY formula: parity + great attitude = Welle

       There had to be more than a few members of the Arizona Golf Association scratching their heads in surprise this week when it was announced that Paul Welle had captured AGA Player of the Year honors for 2008.
       Welle, not necessarily a household name in Arizona golf circles, is the 26-year-old Talking Stick Golf Club employee who won the Arizona Mid-Amateur last year along with victories in the Western Amateur and the Mesa City Championship. He tossed in a couple of other top-10s along the way to finish third on the AGA points list.
       The winner on the points list was Ken Kellaney, the 10-time AGA Player of the Year who has dominated the Arizona golf scene for nearly two decades. Kellaney certainly has the right to ask the question: “If the points don’t indicate the true winner (for AGA Player of the Year), then why keep track of them?’’ Of course, he’s too much of a gentleman for that, so I’ll ask it for him.
       It’s a good point, the points. Then again, how can you win a POY award and not win one of the state’s major championships? At any level – amateur or pros – winning a major has always been a prerequisite to winning it all. Ask Mark O’Meara or Padraig Harrington, or the guys they beat out by winning “big’’ rather than winning (or playing) often.
     Kellaney, obviously, was always there in 2008 — week in and week out – but he couldn’t catch the fire when he needed it most, which is why kids like Jin Song (Arizona Amateur) and Chan Kim (Arizona Stroke Play Championship), along with Tim Duffey (Arizona Public Links Championship) carted off the major hardware.
    So it kind of made sense that when Song, Kim and Duffey didn’t do much else in the way of enhancing their 2008 seasons, the POY honor fell to Welle, who was most deserving under the rules of parity. In fact, I thought Welle summed it up best when he told AGA media liaison Ann Victor that he felt he won the award because he was, basically, older and wiser.
   “Things went my way this year a little more,’’ Welle said. “In the past, I had chances to win a few other times and didn’t get it done, but was able to get it done this year, which was good.
    “This year, I was just a little smarter player than I use to be, more patient and not making as many mistakes as I used to.’’
     And Welle certainly was humble when it came to perhaps the biggest move, golf-wise, of his career.
    “It it pretty cool, and I never thought about it too much before,’’ Welle admitted. “To be included in such a distinguished group with Ken Kellaney, with his 10 awards, and Billy Mayfair, along with the greats in Arizona golf like Dr. Ed Updegraff and Bob Goldwater, it is just incredible to think that I am joining them with my one (award).’’
    You’ve got to like that. So here’s a tip of the cap – a golf salute! – to Paul Welle, who along with Doug Smith (Mayfair Award), Tom Beach (Masters POY), Steven Welker (Senior POY) and Russell Hatfield (Legends POY) made 2008 a year to remember.
    Oh, yes, and 2009 more unpredictable than ever!