The picture is etched in Erin Widmayer’s memory, even though it was from several years ago at Park Hills Golf Course in Freeport.
Widmayer, then Marian Central’s assistant golf coach, recalls head coach Bob Kies walking out of the clubhouse, orange juice and doughnut holes in hand, and not seeing the lip in the concrete underneath him.
Kies went sprawling, wound up with a black eye, cuts on his nose and forehead and blood all over his white Marian polo shirt. But there was no way he was going to any hospital. There was a golf tournament to play. Plus, Kies had other reasons.
“He said, ‘Don’t let them take me to the hospital, there’s too much wrong with me, I’ll never get out,’ ” Widmayer said.
Kies wore a tough-guy exterior, although those who knew him well claim he was a softy. The former Marian athletic director and coach died Thursday night in Rockford Memorial Hospital. He was 75. Arrangements are pending at Schneider-Leucht-Merwin & Cooney Funeral Directors in Woodstock.
Kies, a Marian assistant golf coach, was suffering from pneumonia the last half of the golf season. Again, he didn’t want anything to do with a hospital, at least until after the season. At that point, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Marian AD Drew Potthoff said Kies fell into a coma this week and was taken to Rockford.
“He was just a good guy,” said Potthoff, a longtime friend of Kies.
Kies first became known in the McHenry County area as Johnsburg’s first boys basketball head coach. The Skyhawks went 23-6 in their first season, 1979, and won a Class A regional title. Kies was 54-29 in three seasons as coach.
“I remember the day I interviewed him,” former Johnsburg AD Jim Meyers said. “We spent a lot of time together on scouting trips, AD conventions, those type of things. He was quite a character. He was pretty mellow and very organized. Statistically, he was meticulous.”
Kies developed a tradition with his basketball teams where he became known as “Cowboy Bob.” Both at Johnsburg and later at Quincy Notre Dame, Kies would enter the court with a cowboy hat, run a few steps toward the student section while waving the hat, then pitch it into the stands.
Kies once said he planned on ending it after tossing a hat at QND, but the fans loved it so much, they kept giving him hats, so he kept doing it.
Kies came back to McHenry County as Marian’s AD and also coached girls golf. Widmayer, now the Hurricanes' softball coach, had limited golf knowledge, but Marian needed an assistant. She learned plenty working with Kies.
“I always joked that he was a good ol’ boy, not in a bad way, in a good way,” Widmayer said. “He just told you the way it was, whether you liked it or not. I got to experience him as a coach, not as one of his players. I can imagine him being tough, but he was really a big teddy bear.”
Widmayer and current Marian girls golf coach Erin Carver verified Meyers’ description of Kies keeping painstaking statistics. Widmayer said Kies called his stats book "The Bible" and it had how many fairways, how many greens, how many putts and everything that players hit both in practices and matches. That way Kies had documented proof of how players improved through the year.
“You could not believe how much he was into stats,” Carver said. “He didn’t use a calculator. He’d sit in front of the TV in the fall and watch Cubs games and work on stats.
"I don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t find a stats program as thorough as he was.”
Carver was sad that Kies, who also was dealing with diabetes, was retiring and it would be his last season with the players. Kies had planned to move to a condominium he bought in Dubuque, Iowa.
Anne Kies, his wife, died two years ago after fighting breast cancer. The Kies had three daughters and two sons. One daughter, Kathie Sembach, lives with her family in Woodstock. She said her father had melanoma removed in January, and medical personnel thought they got it all. When he was checked in October, however, his cancer had progressed.
“He left quite a legacy,” Sembach said. “He touched a lot of lives. He gave a lot of life lessons, more than just teaching someone to play sports.”