Ohio has produced its share of prominent legends — Jack Nicklaus, William Powell and Peggy Kirk Bell, among them — but it has its unsung legends, too, one of whom passed away earlier this week.
Burch Riber, 87, was an executive with Taft Broadcasting Company in Cincinnati, where he befriended its CEO, Charles Mecham, who later became the LPGA commissioner. When Taft opened the Kings Island amusement park on land it purchased from Mecham, it also purchased additional land on which a golf course was built on Riber’s recommendation. Nicklaus and Desmond Muirhead designed the course.
The course opened in 1972 and a year later the PGA Tour’s Ohio Kings Island Open was played there, a tournament run by Riber. Nicklaus won the inaugural Kings Island Open, while Miller Barber, Ben Crenshaw and Mike Hill won the final three editions of the tournament.
Riber then brought the LPGA Championship to the Golf Center at Kings Island, where it was played from 1978 through 1989. Nancy Lopez was its first and final winner of the LPGA Championship played there, as well as well as winning the 1985 tournament at Kings Island.
In 1990, Riber brought Kroger Senior Classic to Kings Island, where it was played every year through 2001.
He also was the executive director of the International Golf Association which ran the World Cup of Golf.
“Burch was the face of golf for Taft Broadcasting Company for a number of years, but he was much more than that,” Mechem told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “He was a master marketer and salesman. He was selling corporate sponsorships before we first opened Kings Island, and that was no small task because we were just selling smoke then. We didn’t have anything to show.”
PGA Tour player Jim Herman, a Cincinnati native, paid tribute to Riber on Twitter, as did Cincinnati Reds legend Johnny Bench.