Trail born golfer Garrett Kucher left an indelible impression on the Vancouver Golf Tour this summer winning the Most Improved Tour Professional for the 2016 Spring-Summer circuit.
Kucher capped off the season with a third-place finish at the VGT Tour Championship at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows on Sept. 30 and knew he was up for the award based on his improvement factor on his scoring index throughout the season.
“I’d say pretty much all my goals were met,” said Kucher. “That (award) wrapped everything up for the summer. I really wanted that, I mean that’s huge for me, just to have that (MIP) shows you worked hard for a reason. So it was good for myself and my sponsors and my team.”
Kucher shot a 1-under 71 to finish two shots back of Vancouver Golf Club’s Adam Cornelson on the final VGT stop, and one shot behind Bear Mountain’s Riley Wheeldon to finish fourth overall in money earnings on the VGT with close to $10,000.
The 23-year-old Castlegar native finished in the top-10 in almost every one of the events he entered with two wins on the tour and another three off-tour highlighted by a 10-stroke victory at the Osoyoos Desert Classic and a win in front of friends and family at the Rossland-Trail Open at the Birchbank Golf Course in August.
Kucher, who now lives in Chilliwack, racked up about 20,000 kilometres on his vehicle this summer and close to 70 rounds on courses stretching from Fort St. John to Calgary, Vancouver, and many stops in between. In one stretch, he drove from Vancouver to Alberta for two Canadian Tour events in Edmonton and Calgary, then to Fort St. John where he played in and won the VGT tournament on a Wednesday. He left immediately following that event for Chilliwack, then drove to Trail Thursday, teed off Friday and won the R-T Open Sunday, then back to Chilliwack for a VGT event in Whistler on Tuesday.
But the intense pace has served him well. In his final 20 rounds on the VGT Kucher shot under par 15 times, and while the left-handed golfer attributes much of his recent success to his new coach and fine-tuning on the range, he’s also strengthened the most essential aspect of his play, the mental game.
“I started working really hard on myself. Not being selfish but realizing it’s pretty individual, the sport I play, so instead of getting down on myself when I had a bad week, I got into my head that I have to learn how to deal with this or I’m not going to last long.”
The former Selkirk College Saints hockey player has become more and more consistent, and improved his course management and ability to bounce back after a string of bad holes. One example: in the Fraser Valley Open, Kucher somehow set an 18-hole course record at the Falls Course after shooting even-par through 10 holes. He shot a brilliant 6-under 30 on the final eight and a 65 for the new record.
“The most important thing really was mental. I didn’t let rounds get away from me, I’d make a couple bogies and be like alright you have 15 holes so be calm … that was the biggest thing. My coach always told me, ‘You can’t win a golf tournament on the first day, but you sure can lose it.’”
Following his success on the VGT, Kucher will now head south to play in events in California and Arizona before returning home for Christmas and then is off to join the Evolve Golf Tour in Spain in January for a second straight year.
The support from his sponsors, his coach, and a healthy fitness and nutrition program has made a big difference, but as important for Kucher is the encouragement from friends and family, which has helped his confidence and contributed to his success.
“I have a lot of really good people around me … It’s happened so quick so I don’t think I’ve had a chance to really thank everybody for all the support. It was pretty special to come back and win at Birchbank because my grandfather has never watched me play in a golf tournament, and he taught me to love the game. I was hitting his irons backwards in the sandbox in Rivervale when I was seven. So that one was a big one for me to have in my hometown. It’s just been an awesome year.”
Following the Evolve Tour, Kucher plans to tackle the Canadian Tour Qualifying (Q) School in April, and the Web.com Tour Q-school in the fall. His future sights are firmly set on joining the PGA Tour and if his commitment and hard work are any indication, Kucher will be on the Tour sooner than later.
“I’m happy where I am right now, but it’s not good enough,” he added. “I’m here to make the PGA Tour.”