Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Charity golf tournament at Circling Raven renames in memory of club professional David VonBrethorst

Circling Raven will rename its charity golf tournament in memory of deceased club professional David VonBrethorst.  (Courtesy)

David VonBrethorst was a pastor and high school track and field coach for much of his 47 years. But at the heart of it all, he was a teacher and advocate for young people.

His last pursuit, becoming certified as a PGA professional, was perhaps the most challenging. The process to get into the PGA is time-consuming, can be physically arduous and provides limited opportunities – especially for someone attempting the feat in their mid-40s.

VonBrethorst accepted those challenges headfirst, worked his way up from the bottom and achieved his goal through the longest of odds. It just came too late for him to see it.

VonBrethorst died in November – after a nearly three-year battle with cancer – just three days before receiving his PGA professional certification.

It is that perseverance and dedication that led the organizers of the Believe In Me foundation to rename their fundraising golf tournament in memory of VonBrethorst, who rose through the ranks to become the head pro at Circling Raven Golf Club and fought through the PGA certification process while fighting cancer.

“David was played a critical role for our tournament over the past two years,” Believe In Me chief executive office Julie Wukelic said. “He really loved working with our group and loved our cause.

“The minute we heard, we immediately said, ‘We have to do everything we can to dedicate the effort to his memory.’ ”

His fight

VonBrethorst, who was a pastor at several churches in Spokane and the girls track coach at Ferris for nearly 20 years, decided in 2017 to pursue golf as vocation. He was hired at Kalispel Golf and Country Club, working a variety of jobs and began the process of certification.

When Circling Raven was looking for a head pro in late 2019, Gary Lindblad, the pro at Kalispel, reached out to Dave Christenson, director of golf at Circling Raven.

Despite not being PGA certified , VonBrethorst was hired at Circling Raven in February 2020 – three months after being diagnosed with cancer.

He excelled in his new position and continued the process of certification, all while dealing with his insidious disease and treatment.

“It gave him purpose,” his wife, Monica VonBrethorst, told The Spokesman-Review in November. “It distracted him from what was going on with his body. He preferred going to the driving range than sitting and resting after chemo. … It was his motivation.”

VonBrethorst was physically decimated as he completed the playing portion of his certification in September, then a week of PGA school in late October.

He entered hospice upon his return and died on Nov. 11. Three days later, the club and his family were notified by the PGA that he was granted certification.

The cause

The Believe In Me foundation’s mission is funding children’s charities that provide marginalized children a chance to succeed. Those charities include providing “a safe place to call home, a family that loves them, a feeling of community, and opportunities to learn, build self-esteem and have fun,” according to the organization’s website.

One of its most-popular annual events is the golf tournament at Circling Raven each summer. VonBrethorst, who had created youth programs at the course, was an instant and dedicated advocate.

“We were aware he was sick last year, and he did everything he could to make it a success,” Wukelic said. “You never would have known. He was the ultimate professional.

“When we heard that he had passed, there was just no question in our minds that we wanted to dedicate our tournament in his honor. He really wanted to make sure that marginalized youth could grow up to develop the confidence they need to succeed. That’s kind of who he was as a person.”

“He cared about other people immensely,” Circling Raven director of golf Chris Runyan said. “He cared about junior programs. He was very passionate about junior athletics.”

VonBrethorst’s family will be at the tournament on Friday. The organization has produced a video presentation to honor him during the event.

“We’re very much looking forward to really honoring him through this tournament,” Wukelic said. “It’s all about remembering how he touched so many lives and how he got so many people to believe in themselves.”

“Golf was his second career,” Runyan said. “Like a lot of people that come to golf as a second career, either you do it for love of the game or you want to fulfill a passion. And despite everything he had going on, he fulfilled that passion very well.”