Gary D'Amato remembers Herb Kohler, ‘a huge friend of golf’

Herb Kohler revolutionized the Kohler Company, transforming the way bathrooms and homes looked since the 1970s, but his greatest legacy may be his efforts to introduce Wisconsin to a greater audience. He did so through golf.

Kohler passed away on Sept. 3 at the age of 83. 

While others saw empty farm fields or even polluted lands, Kohler saw an opportunity for something greater -- championship golf.

One writer who knew him said that will be Kohler's legacy, turning Wisconsin into a destination for decades to come.

Nestled along the shores of Lake Michigan, it was the center of the golf world almost a year ago, but to the man who developed the course, it was all Herb Kohler could have dreamed of.

"It meant the world to him," said Gary D'Amato. "Before he built Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits, Wisconsin was basically a flyover state for traveling golfers with disposable income."

D'Amato developed a friendship with Kohler over years of covering his efforts to grow the game in Wisconsin.

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"I'm gonna miss him," said D'Amato. "He was a huge friend of golf, and I think the most influential figure in Wisconsin golf history."

That impact only came on the back nine of his life. Kohler took over the family company as CEO at just 33 years old, transforming the way the world viewed toilets sinks and bathrooms.

Under his leadership, the Kohler Company expanded internationally before dealing with labor struggles at home.

Above all, Kohler admitted it was his pride for Wisconsin that drove his vision for the state.

"On the east coast, on the west coast, anywhere else in this country, the folks in this state beat 'em, hands down," said Kohler. 

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D'Amato said that vision will not fade, even after Kohler's passing. 

The Kohler Company is planning a public tribute at a future date -- while the family will host a private service. The company did not share how he died.