Herbert V. Kohler Jr., who served as CEO of the Kohler Co. for 43 years and led the company into golf and hospitality, will be the recipient of the 2016 Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).
The award has been presented annually by GCSAA since 1983 to an individual, who through a lifetime commitment to the game of golf, has helped to mould the welfare of the game in a manner and style exemplified by Old Tom Morris. Morris, a four-time Open Championship winner, was the long-time superintendent at St Andrews until his death in 1908. Kohler was notified as being the 2016 award winner at St Andrews during the 2015 Open Championship.
“I am particularly honoured and I sincerely thank the GCSAA for this award,” said Kohler. “I am delighted. Old Tom was an entrepreneur, an influence in the creation of the Open Championship, a designer of golf products and some of the best courses in the world to this day. He nurtured the environment as the first official keeper of the greens.”
Some of the past winners include Arnold Palmer, Gerald Ford, Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, Byron Nelson, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye, Ben Crenshaw, Ken Venturi, Nancy Lopez, Peter Jacobsen and Annika Sorenstam.
Kohler will receive the award Feb. 9 at the Opening Session of the Golf Industry Show in San Diego. The Opening Session will again be presented in partnership with Syngenta.
“We are indebted to Herb Kohler for what he has done for this association and for what he has meant to the game over the past four decades,” said Rhett Evans, chief executive officer of GCSAA. “He has made an indelible mark in golf with his focus on the importance of environmental stewardship, both now and for the future.”
Kohler, 76, brought world calibre golf to the company that bears his family name and is most synonymous with manufacturing of leading-edge products for homes around the world. An avid golfer, Kohler hired famed architect Pete Dye to build four courses at two championship venues — Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., and Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis., which will host its third PGA Championship this month.
In 2004, Kohler ventured into the birthplace of the game when the company bought the Old Course Hotel Golf Resort and Spa in St Andrews. Five years later, he expanded the Kohler presence in St Andrews with the purchase and development of Hamilton Grand. The historic landmark sits behind the 18th hole of the Old Course and has 26 private residences.
He has also given back to the game, serving two three-year terms (1999-2002, 2007-2010) on the board of trustees for the Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG), the philanthropic organization of GCSAA, and was board chairman in 2001-2002. He was instrumental in renaming the fundraising organization as EIFG to show that money raised would be focused on golf’s environmental future.
“Like Old Tom Morris, Herb Kohler has succeeded in many disciplines and is dedicated to the game of golf,” said John J. O’Keefe, GCSAA president. “Mr. Kohler has said that this award was a highlight of his life with golf, so I am proud that GCSAA can honor him with an award so fitting to his personality and contributions to the game.”
A graduate of Yale University, and a designer/inventor with more than 200 product patents, he is also an active philanthropist outside of golf. Kohler chaired the Board of Trustees of Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn., where he was a former student. There he built the Kohler Environmental Center, the first teaching, research and residential environmental center in U.S. secondary education.
He has also been a trustee of Outward Bound, Lawrence University, the Kennedy Center, and the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art.