ToquiNotes: Former BHS Teacher, Coach Bill Kerns Rewinds to Court Time with Robert "Bobby" Koepka

By Jeff Toquinto on June 24, 2017 from ToquiNotes via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Admittedly, former Bridgeport High School educator and basketball Coach Bill Kerns doesn’t watch a whole lot of golf. This past Sunday, however, he was like so many with ties to Bridgeport who decided that he was going to catch a few holes of the 117th U.S. Open.
 
Kerns wasn’t bored. He didn’t suddenly discover a passion for a game so many of his friends take part in. Rather, Bill Kerns watched for the reason so many others watched – a young man named Brooks Koepka was about ready to win his first major at the Erins Hill Course in Wisconsin.
 
While many that were in the same group of turning over to a sport they so rarely if ever watch (yours truly included) to see a young man whose family is from Bridgeport and whose father was a standout student-athlete here for curiosity as much as anything else, Kerns turned over because it was personal. Robert Koepka, the father of the 27-year-old U.S. Open Champion, was someone Bill Kerns remembered well.
 
“He was Bobby to me and everyone else at that time,” said Kerns. “When I came back to my alma mater to coach, Bobby Koepka was on my very first team. I knew he was there early when I got started, but when I started pulling pictures out and other items from those early years, there he was. Then, a whole lot of memories came back.”
 
Kerns was at Martinsburg between 1970 and 1975 when he came back for what would be the start of the 1975-76 basketball season. The state championship ball coach remembers it well.
 
“Bobby was there, Jeff Perine, Dave Weekley, Rick Cooper, Darrell Wickenhoffer Greg Ross, Tommy Conner, Bill Klenk, Mike Trout and a whole bunch of other great young men,” said Kerns. “I coached for many years, but that was the biggest team that I ever had. I don’t remember everyone, but we had a good group.”
 
“I think we were something like 12-10; right around .500 as a team,” said Kerns. “Those first three years we were always around that .500 mark.”
 
By 1977, Bobby Koepka was a senior. Kerns said it was another near .500 season, but it was also a season where he started seeing hope for the future in some unique ways.
 
“We actually had new uniforms and, heck, we had an Indian mascot in Tim Rokisky. You know when you get uniforms and a mascot things are picking up,” Kerns said with a laugh.
 
That ’77 squad had Koepka returning and several others, along with the addition Kerns said of Todd Fulks. He said during Koepka’s senior year things had changed for the left hander who had would eventually work his way into the starting lineup, according to Kerns.
 
“Bobby was a left hander. Was he the best player I ever had? No, he wasn’t, but I can tell you that he comes in as among the hardest working players I had in all my days and that sticks with me to this day,” said Kerns. “He was ready to practice and ready to compete no matter when or where. There may have been players who were as focused and intense in all my years, but there weren’t players more focused and intense. Ask any coach how important that is and Bobby Koepka had those traits.”
 
Kerns said Koepka was a guard-forward type player that he recalls being around 6’1. He said he utilized his left hand well and was likely a double digit scorer without adding up the totals.
 
As Kerns poured through all score books this past week at his home on the Marion-Taylor County line, he smiled as he saw Koepka’s numbers rise as the season went along. The former Indian had a season-high 23 points in a loss against Lewis County, but came back with 19 points in a route of Harrison County rival Liberty.
 
“It was nice to coach Bobby, but it was just as nice seeing his son do so well. I was just so happy for the entire family. They were just great people that lived, I believe, on Circle Drive in Bridgeport,” said Kerns. “Bobby’s brother Scott was a pretty good athlete, too, before I got here. Bobby, Scott, their entire family … I just can’t say enough good things about the Koepkas. I can tell you that Brooks got all his good traits from a really good family.”
 
Bobby and Scott Koepka lived with their father Berv and mother Mary - Brooks' grandparents. Berv worked at the gas company and Mary was a substitute teacher.
 
Kerns pointed out that athletic ability goes deep into the Koepka family. He said Brooks’ grandmother's brother was former Pittsburgh Pirate and NBA player Dick Groat.
 
“He’s a hall of famer. That’s pretty impressive on the athletic front,” said Kerns.
 
Kerns said as fond as he was of Bobby Koepka as a basketball player, his best sport was baseball. The announcers actually mentioned Bobby Koepka as his son was getting close to securing the U.S. Open crown as going to Bridgeport High School where he was a standout athlete and later played college baseball at West Virginia Wesleyan.
 
“I heard that and just got the biggest smile on my face to hear them talk about Bridgeport and Bobby. I actually lost contact with Bobby sometime after he went to West Virginia Wesleyan,” said Kerns. “I believe he had a pretty good career there, but I didn’t hear the name again until recently.”
 
Kerns said he would occasionally see the name Koepka in the newspaper or hear about it on television. He figured there may be a chance that there was a relation.
 
“When they kept talking about Brooks Koepka, I thought that’s an unusual enough name that he may be related to Bobby. When I saw Brooks, I had no doubt. He looks a lot like his father, a bit bigger, but they have the same features so I assumed it might be Bobby’s son or some relation,” said Kerns. “As an old coach, that makes you pretty happy to see something like that, but I needed to know for sure.”
 
Kerns turned to Dean Hartzell for the answer. And Hartzell told him that it was, in fact, Bobby Koepka’s son.

“I really started paying attention then and noticed he was always near the top. I figured he was as competitive as his father who had no trouble sticking his nose in and playing against guys like Mike Carey and Jeff Schneider, among the best to ever play in Harrison County, or against the Everharts from Fairmont Senior. You combine talent and drive and you get results. It’s hard to argue Brooks is getting results,” Kerns ended.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows the 1977 BHS boys basketball team with Coach Bill Kerns standing top row far right and Robert "Bobby" Koepka to his immediate left. Second photo is a closeup of the two in the same photo. Third picture shows Koepka during his junior season on the mound in what the yearbook describes as a "pitcher's view" of Koepka pitching. In the fourth photo, a tweeted photo shows Koepka's son and U.S. Open winner Brooks working out the morning he won the title. Photo below is of the 1976 basketball team with Koepka pictured, standing, second from left. 


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