On Friday, November 30, 2018, Golf Course Architect, Gary Lee Kern, passed away at the age of 80 in Chesterfield, Missouri.
Born on December 27, 1937, Gary grew up in the small town of Kendallville, Indiana. He was the only child of Ralph and Edith Kern. After high school graduation, he went to Texas to attend Texas A&M University for two years, where he began playing golf. Moving back to Indiana, Gary worked in the engineering department of the Indiana Department of Highways for two years. In 1960, Gary became a principal in the civil engineering and land survey firm of Weihe Engineers, Inc. located in Hamilton County, Indiana. In this position, Gary was responsible for land use planning, site design, and engineering drawings for single family subdivisions and multifamily projects.
Gary continued to play golf and developed a love of the game which translated to an ongoing informal study of golf course architecture. He read and re-read everything he could get his hands on about golf course architecture, including one of his favorite books, The Links, by Robert Hunter. In 1969, Weihe Engineers, Inc. was commissioned to design Brookshire, a single family community in Carmel, Indiana that included a golf course. Gary suggested to the client that they hire golf course architect, Bill Diddel, to design the golf course. Working together with Bill on the golf course’s design and construction, Gary designed the golf course’s routing and Bill designed the golf course’s features. As they developed a close working relationship throughout the design and construction of Brookshire Golf Club, Bill encouraged Gary to enter the field of the golf course architecture. Bill endorsed Gary to a prospective client as a golf course architect resulting in Gary’s first golf course design commission for Tomahawk Hills Golf Course in Jamestown, Indiana. Gary and Bill continued their relationship throughout the rest of Bill’s life.
In 1974, Gary became a full time golf course architect designing and remodeling a long list of golf courses in the Midwest and throughout the country. Gary moved to St. Louis in 1983 and designed many notable golf courses in the area including, Fox Run Golf Club, Lake Forest Country Club, Aberdeen Golf Club and Crown Point Golf Club. His son, Ron came to work with Gary in 1983 and worked with him designing golf courses through 1992. Gary designed golf courses with Hale Irwin for a period of time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including New England Country Club in Bellingham, Massachusetts.
Gary’s golf course design philosophy was to design golf courses that are challenging for good players and enjoyable for all golfers. He was a design “minimalist” using the natural terrain to route the golf course long before that term was ever coined in the golf course design community. Gary leaves a significant legacy of golf courses on which players will continue to enjoy playing the game of golf for generations to come.
In retirement, Gary started playing the clarinet again in 2009 and kept busy practicing and playing in two community bands. Gary was an avid St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Blues fan and loved attending games and watching games on television. He also loved traveling the world with his long-time friend, Pat Pace. Sadie, Gary and Pat’s dog, held a special place in his heart.
A member of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Chesterfield, Missouri, Gary deeply valued his relationship with the church, the church’s members and the church’s Pastor Below. Bible study was an essential part of Gary’s life.
Gary is survived by his long-time friend, Patricia Ann Pace, son Ronald Lee Kern and daughter-in-law, Julie Marie Kern.
Services will be at Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Chesterfield, Missouri on Thursday, December 6 with visitation from 9 to 11 a.m. and memorial service at 11 a.m. Gravesite service will be directly following the memorial service at Bethel Cemetery, Wildwood, Missouri
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Lord of Life Church, Chesterfield, Missouri and The First Tee of Greater St. Louis.