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Dan Weber’s Just Sayin’: Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame April inductees have lots to say

It was VIP turnout day at the April induction of the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame this week.

Danny Caple with Thea Caple, wife of deceased NKSHOF inductee and Danny’s twin, Denny (Photos by Dan Weber/NKyTribune)

Hall of Fame coaches Noel Rash, Lynn Ray and Reynolds Flynn were here. So was 93-year-old Arianna Hauer, a coach of both boys and girls seven decades ago who was years and years ahead of her time in Fort Mitchell. And softball legend Tom Taylor, who is looking for a home for the Hamilton County Sports Hall of Fame.

Then there was inductee and guest speaker Tom Walters, currently the innovative golf pro at Summit Hills after an All-American career at Northern Kentucky University and onetime playing partner – some 100 rounds together – of Tiger Woods when he was an assistant pro at Florida’s Isleworth Country Club, Tiger’s home course.

Here’s what the talk was like.

• DENNY and DANNY CAPLE: Let’s do the Ludlow twins first, they had the most folks here. “We travel in packs,” said Thea Caple, widow of Denny. “The Caple family had the greatest athletes ever to come out of Ludlow, seven of them,” was the quote from MC Kenney Shields. From Clarence, Charlie and Harold, the twins’ dad, their aunt Dorothy – “who might have been the best athlete of them all,” Danny said — to Mike, the athletes just kept coming. “We did everything together,” Danny said of the multiple-sport star twins – football, basketball, baseball and track and field – from “battling one another” to “wrestling” to “one-on-one basketball . . . “My twin bro is one of the reasons I’m up here. Denny was the best athlete I ever saw or played with,” Danny said, “I miss him every day.” Both would move on to Western Kentucky University for football and return home to join the “clan” supporting the next generation of Caples as coaches and fans. “I’d look up in the stands and there was the Caple clan,” Danny said of his playing days as he thanked all of his many coaches from his first, the legendary Benny Clary, to his dad, Harold. “It makes it more fitting that I’m going in with my brother Denny.” Thea Caple described her husband, Denny, as “an incredible competitor and “an even better person” and for their four children, “their personal coach and even greater support.”

Guest speaker Tom Walters flanked by NKSHOF Pres. Joe Brennan and VP Kenney Shields.

• BOB BRUNO: the longtime assistant with Mike Murphy at Newport, then to CovCath’s Ray and finally Beechwood’s Rash, is a veteran of 47 coaching seasons and has the wisdom to prove it. “Xs and O’s may change but the fundamentals don’t,” he says. “Teach first to be a better coach.” In his opening words, Bruno said, “I’m an assistant coach and nothing but an assistant. We don’t get much time to talk . . . there are so many more people qualified to be up here than me.” And after thanking all the coaches who mentored him, he thanked “all the kids in the 47 seasons who allowed me to be a small part of their lives.” And finally, of his wife of 32 years who has battled through a number of health issues while married to a coach: “Every time I come home, she’s there waiting for me.”

• BERT BENNETT (deceased): A great athlete at Holmes, Class of 1944, who joined the Navy rather than go on to play college football at Duke or Kentucky, only to end up playing for UK’s Bear Bryant University after the war and becoming not a fan, here’s Bennett’s story from his son, John, who accepted for him: A guard who played in those leather-helmeted, non-facemask days, Bert was involved in a play when both guards pulled toward one another instead of in the same direction, resulting in a terrific collision that had Bennett down and bleeding. His memory of that moment is of the Bear leaning over him and saying: “You bleed easily, kid.” That was enough to send Bennett, already married, home to become a well-respected “no-nonsense” coach, administrator, and official.

The April NKSHOF inductees with the group’s leaders, from left: Bob Bruno, John Bennett (for his father Bert), Matt Stevens, Pres. Joe Brennan, Tom Walters, VP Kenney Shields, Thea Caple (for husband Denny), board member Randy Marsh, and Danny Caple

• MATT STEVENS: The CovCath grad is one of those supporting cast of coaches that top programs cannot exist without. And top programs – Highlands, Beechwood and CovCath – are the places where Matt has had the good fortune to coach these last 22 years, with the current CovCath assistant having been part of two state basketball championships. “I was blessed, lucky,” he says. As a third-string freshman safety at CovCath, “I didn’t think I’d ever be here . . . It’s not my accomplishments but the determination of my athletes (that are responsible for his selection) . . . to my parents, it worked” . . . his dad, Matt says, as his “bookkeeper” saved him “five or six technicals over the years with a look” . . . and finally, “For a coach to follow his dreams, your spouse has to give up some of theirs.” Also here was a shoutout to Dave Wear, who for so many years has been the publicity and records guy for CovCath sports from his days as one of then-CovCath coach Shields’ typing students.

• SUMMIT HILLS PRO TOM WALTERS: “I’m shedding tears and don’t even know you,” Walters began as a salute to his fellow Hall of Famers in his dual inductee/guest speaker role. Describing himself as an “extremely mediocre” golfer at Turpin High School who didn’t think he “was the best player but I had a desire to work really hard.” That desire and work ethic made him an All-American at NKU after transferring from Mississippi State on a Norse team that advanced to the NCAA Division II tournament where Walters lost the 1996 national championship by just a shot. At Isleworth, he estimates he played some 100 rounds with Woods, who always treated him well and as a fellow pro . . . he caddied for half a season on the PGA Tour for another Isleworth member, Mark O’Meara . . . thanked his wife for “always being supportive and positive” about his golf career . . . says of his Summit Hills gig, where he’s earned high marks from golf engagement to the pro shop, “I don’t think of it as a job.”

Dan Weber is sports reporter for the NKyTribune.

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