RIP former Parkes man and Wollongong golf legend Keith Pepper - a man for all seasons

RIP: The late great golf legend Keith Pepper at Wollongong Golf Club. Picture: Robert Peet
RIP: The late great golf legend Keith Pepper at Wollongong Golf Club. Picture: Robert Peet

Golf was his passion but there wasn't many sports he took up that the late Keith Pepper didn't excel in.

Those in the know reckon Pepper, who passed away age 98 on November 29, is the Illawarra's best ever all-round sportsperson.

It runs in the family as Pepper, who was born in Parkes, is the brother of local cricket legend and one of Australia's all-time greatest cricketers Cec Pepper.

Pepper was last in Parkes in November 2018 for the launch of his brother's full-length biography, written by Australian sports journalist and author Ken Piesse.

Pepper spent the majority of his life living in Wollongong.

In the Australian Golf Digest in 1981, Terry Smith wrote Pepper "surely must be Australia's most unique sportsman".

At the time Pepper had already beaten Ken Rosewell at tennis, shot 63 at golf and held his own with world champion Michael Szabados at table tennis.

RIP: The late great Keith Pepper teeing off on the first hole of the NSW Veterans Championships at Wollongong Golf Club on February 27, 2006. Picture: Ken Robertson

RIP: The late great Keith Pepper teeing off on the first hole of the NSW Veterans Championships at Wollongong Golf Club on February 27, 2006. Picture: Ken Robertson

One of Wollongong Golf Club's best ever golfers also played first grade cricket for Petersham at the age of 15. He top-scored with 81 against a St George bowling outfit containing Australian Test greats Bill O'Reilly and Ray Lindwall.

He was just as impressive in other sports and is considered a champion diver, squash player, roller skater and boxer.

Pepper also excelled in badminton and was a champion ballroom dancer.

Jeanette Bond told the Illawarra Mercury her father loved to win.

"I might be biased but I think he is the Illawarra's best ever sportsman," Mrs Bond said.

"He liked to win, and he won quite a bit.

"Dad was going to turn professional but he had the shop [Peppers Sport], which the family was heavily involved in."

Keith Pepper at his Wollongong store Peppers Sport. Picture: Supplied

Keith Pepper at his Wollongong store Peppers Sport. Picture: Supplied

Pepper, or "Pepsi" to his mates, did not take up golf until he was 41, but went on to win scores of club, regional, state and national titles.

He was virtually unbeatable in tennis on the South Coast for two decades before switching to golf. Pepper won the Illawarra tennis title 10 times and the South Coast championship for six consecutive years without dropping a set.

Pepper took on United States Davis Cup star Tony Trabert in an exhibition match in Wollongong in the early '50s. The match was called off at seven-all.

"Dad wasn't happy. He reckons he would have gone on to win that," Mrs Bond said.

She said Pepper kept on playing golf until the very end, and won about 60 titles.

The tally includes five Wollongong club championships, nine Illawarra Golf Association titles, six NSW seniors crowns and two Australian seniors titles.

Pepper at one point had a handicap of plus one and held the Wollongong course record on six separate occasions.

Pepper is survived by his wife Hazel, who lives at IRT William Beach Gardens in Kanahooka, his daughter Jeanette Bond and son Robert Pepper.

FAMILY: Jeanette Bond with her father and Cec Pepper's brother Keith Pepper, and Cec Pepper's son John Wither at the book launch of Cec Pepper's biography at the Parkes Shire Library in November 2018. Photo: Christine Little

FAMILY: Jeanette Bond with her father and Cec Pepper's brother Keith Pepper, and Cec Pepper's son John Wither at the book launch of Cec Pepper's biography at the Parkes Shire Library in November 2018. Photo: Christine Little

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This story Former Parkes man and Wollongong golf legend Keith Pepper dies, aged 98 first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.