Bob Kepler was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1910, and passed on to the world of the slick greens and tight fairways in 1976. He graduated from Dayton Stivers High School, enrolled at Ohio State University, and graduated there in 1933.
While in college, Bob was Big Ten Medalist and won the Ohio Amateur. His teammates included such stalwarts as Johnnie Florio and Alan Tracewell. Athletic Director Lynn W. St. John hired Bob as Ohio State’s full-time golf coach and his first season was 1938, the year that the Ohio State golf courses were opened. “Kep” was Ohio State’s first full-time golf coach, succeeding part-time coach George Sargent, former U.S. Open Championship and then the Professional at Scioto Country Club.
Kep’s first golf teams included such players as John Krisko and Charlie Carl. His teams were Big Ten Champions in 1945, 1951, 1954, and 1961. Six of his golf teams finished seventh or better in the NCAA Championships.
In 1945, Kep’s team won the National Championship with a then-record score of 602 strokes. Howard Baker was a Medalist with at 68, and (Dr.) John Lorms won the individual championship. Bob had four NCAA champions, including Lorms, Tom Nieporte, Rick Jones, and Jack Nicklaus.
Bob Kepler is the only coach in the history of the NCAA Tournament to have two finalists: Tom Nieporte and Don Johnson in 1951, and Jack Nicklaus.
In addition to being a great coach, he was a great player. In the years 1945 through 1948, Bob made frequent appearances on the PGA Tour, never finishing out of the money. The high points of his tournament career were getting through to the semi-finals of the 1945 PGA Championship, being beaten by Byron Nelson, the ultimate winner, 2 and 1 over 36 holes. Kep finished fourth in the old Knoxville Open in 1946, and 12th in the U.S. Open at St. Louis in 1947, where after three rounds, he was leading the tournament. Bob ultimately finished 12th, shooting rounds of 73, 70, 69 and 76.
In 1966, Bob retired from Ohio State University, and took the job as Head Professional at the Hounds Ears Lodge at Blowing Rock, North Carolina. He remained there until his death in 1976.