Herb Kohler, Kohler Co. executive chairman, dies at 83

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- One of Wisconsin's wealthiest people has died.

Herb Kohler -- the executive chairman of the Kohler Company, passed away at age 83.

Besides leading the Kohler Company, he was known for making Wisconsin a golf destination.

He was the visionary behind championship courses like Blackwolf Run and Whisting Straits that has lured several major tournaments including the Ryder Cup last fall.

Kohler's involvement in golf brought him to a "celebrity" status in the industry. Golf journalist Gary D'Amato remembers Kohler fondly.

"Very dynamic leader, he was an entrepreneur, he was a visionary, he was a perfectionist," D'Amato said. "He was very gregarious, big laugh, his handshakes would last 20 seconds."

Kohler opened four championship-caliber golf courses in Sheboygan County, with a fifth in planning stages.

"He built golf as a business proposition, and it was after that that I think he fell in love with the game," D'Amato said.

Kohler's courses brought major championships and tourism dollars to what was once a flyover state for pro golfers.

"He was a pragmatic businessman, and he knew that professional golf, that big championships would attract attention to his golf courses and make people want to come play them," D'Amato said.

His endeavors often garnered controversy, especially from locals and environmental groups concerned about preserving the land.

"I mean, not everybody is going to love a guy who has a huge business empire," D'Amato said. "He was very philanthropic when it came to golf. Gave back in many ways to first tee and other enterprises."

With a legacy that kept people talking - Kohler's impact is clear.

"All the attention he's attracted to Wisconsin, I think he's definitely on the Mount Rushmore of golf figures in our state," D'Amato said.

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