Mark B. Kent (photo courtesy Kentwool)
GREENVILLE, South Carolina (September 25, 2017) -- Mark B. Kent of Greenville, South Carolina -- the creator of the world's best golf sock -- died unexpectedly on Sunday night of a heart attack. He was 55.
Kent, president and CEO of Kentwool, a textile manufacturing company started in 1843 in Pennsylvania, was the fifth generation of Kents to run the company and served for more than 20 years.
Kent's father, Warren Thompson "Tom" Kent, moved the company to Pickens, South Carolina in the 1950s, and later closed operations in Philadelphia in 1965, according to Greenville News archives.
"Kentwool flourished under Mark’s leadership, and his loss is felt deeply across the entire organization," the Kentwool said by email, also describing Kent as an "astute businessman," who will be best remembered for his kindness, his generosity, his exceptional character and infectious smile.
"Mark was a service-focused leader and man who was committed to serving his family and friends, his employees and his customers," Kentwool said.
To honor Kent's legacy, the company said it will continue to deliver exceptional products and experiences to its customers "in a manner in which Mark would have been proud." AmateurGolf.com has been a big believer in the golf products put out by Kentwool's Performance Apparel division, which was created thanks to Kent's vision. The first product in that division, a Tour-inspired Merino wool-based sock, has been favored by PGA Tour caddies and players alike for it's comfort and support.
"My feet were blistered (after) three days of walking mountain courses," Kent told The Greenville News in 2013 after he participated in the BMW Charity Pro-Am in South Carolina. "I leaned over to my caddy while we were waiting to hit and said, 'Why doesn't anybody make a great golf sock?' And he turned back to me and said, 'Why don't you do it?'"
The Performance Apparel division now includes underwear carrying the "Durabull" name, as well as loungewear.
Kent was a graduate of Wake Forest University, Clemson University’s School of Textiles and the work training program of the Australian Wool Corp. Soon after graduation, he was elected chairman of the American Textile Import Co. at 26 and was 29 when he became president of Kent Manufacturing Co. in the early 1990s.
Outside of his company, Kent held several board positions, including on the American Textile Export Company, the Upstate South Carolina Charter of the American Red Cross and the Historic Greenville Foundation.
Mayor Knox White told The Greenville News that Kent was a believer in preserving historic buildings in Greenville "before it was the thing to do."
He was named several years ago Red Cross' Philanthropist of the Year in the eight-state Red Cross Southeastern region. He also served on the boards of Christ Church Episcopal School and the S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control, and held a seat on the State Ports Authority.
Kent not only bought them, White said, but he also spent substantial resources transforming them.
On Sept. 12, 1962, Kent was born in a Philadelphia hospital weighing just 4 pounds. He was without parents. That day, Elaine Kent, a mother of two, asked to adopt him.
"I had no future – no mother or father to claim me. I was struggling for life at an early age," he told the newspaper. "Knowing that story, I'm very grateful every day."
After his dad died in 1992, Kent threw himself into community service, even finding time to coach youth soccer and basketball.
"I tend to get involved in things I'm emotional about," Kent said, "and also because I have a really hard time saying, 'No.'"
More than anything, Kent was a people person.
"I like people," he told the paper. "Often, that's the thing that drives me. You can learn a great deal from talking to people."
The Greenville News contributed to this report.