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Herbert Kohler Jr., who helped make Wisconsin a golf destination, dies

By |  September 6, 2022 0 Comments

Herbert V. Kohler Jr., 83, executive chairman of the Kohler Co., died on Saturday, Sept. 3. Kohler served as CEO of the company for 43 years before his son, David Kohler, took over the role in 2015.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Kohler was instrumental in making Wisconsin a golf destination. In the late 1970s, he transformed The American Club, built for Kohler Co.’s immigrant workers, into a notable location for hospitality and golf.

“To take a small town like Kohler and to transform it into a destination hospitality facility was a definite accomplishment,” Greg Hanis, president of Hospitality Makers International, told the Journal Sentinel. “He took an old building and completely renovated it and made it a destination facility.  … “I think he set the benchmark and said that if you wanted to be a five-star resort, this is what you have to do.”

Photos: Golfdom

Photo: Golfdom Staff

Kohler founded Blackwolf Run in 1988 and Whistling Straits in 1998 with hall-of-fame golf course designer Pete Dye at the helm of the construction. Whistling Straits hosted the 2021 Ryder Cup. The Journal Sentinel estimates the Ryder Cup’s economic impact at $135 million.

“Herb Kohler was a larger-than-life figure whose enthusiasm and love of golf helped bring significant men’s and women’s professional events to the state of Wisconsin over the last 25 years while transforming his home state into a golf destination,” a statement from the PGA Tour said. “A First Tee trustee, Herb was a great friend of the PGA Tour, and his regular presence over the years at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am gave us all a first-hand look at his passion for the game. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kohler family.”

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America presented Kohler with the Old  Tom Morris Award in 2016 for his “indelible mark on golf and focus on the importance of environmental stewardship.”

To read more about Kohler’s legacy and role in his family’s company, read a full release from the company here.


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