Kucher grinds out win at Kelowna Invitational

Garrett Kucher fought off a late charge to win the the Kelowna Golf and Country Club Men’s Open

TSN is becoming a charm for Trail golfer Garrett Kucher.

Kucher was interviewed by the sports radio station prior to his second round at the Ogopogo Invitational in July 2016, where he went on to shoot a 66 for a two-day course record of 11-under par. A similar scenario played out on Sunday when after another interview with TSN, the 24-year-old pro fired a 3-under 69 to win the Kelowna Golf and Country Club (KGCC) Men’s Invitational Open with a two-day score of 6-under-par, 138.

“I had a TSN interview that morning,” Kucher told the Times. “And they were like, ‘Well you’ll probably play good today, because last year when we had you on, we were good luck for you and you shot the course record, so you can’t break our luck, keep it going.’

“So it was kind of funny how I ended up winning again after that.”

Kucher’s back-to-back rounds of 3-under 69, at the par-72, 6,500-yard Kelowna was the culmination of a thrilling finish with KGCC’s Brandon Ortiz.

Heading down the challenging back nine – which has five holes with water in play – Kucher led by two strokes over Ortiz, Kelowna native and Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenceman Justin Shultz, and Jeremy Osbourne from the Salmon Arm Golf Course. However, a Kucher bogie on the 15th hole brought the pack to within one, and an eagle by Ortiz on 16 launched the KGCC golfer into a one-shot lead over Kucher.

“Within two holes, I went from a two-shot lead to trailing by one,” said Kucher. “I don’t know if it’s because I was in that same situation a month ago in the Ogopogo that it benefitted me, but I really wasn’t nervous. I just knew what I had to do.”

The Predator Ridge golf ambassador won the 2017 Ogopogo at the same Kelowna course July 16, coming from behind and firing a 67 on the final day for the victory. That experience helped, as on the par-3 17th hole, Kucher made a phenomenal tee shot, then sunk his birdie putt to draw even with Ortiz.

The tournament came down to the final hole, and on the 452-yard par-5, 18th, both players went for the green in two. Kucher hit his drive off the tee to the corner of the dogleg, setting up a long and difficult approach shot.

“Probably my best shot of the day was my approach into 18. I had about 265 in and I hit 3-iron off this hard-pan lie, and ended up hitting onto the middle of the green.”

Kucher set himself up for an eagle putt, while Ortiz ended up with a tricky bunker shot from the green-side trap. Ortiz pitched out to leave a quick right-to-left putt of about 10-feet for birdie. Kucher lagged his eagle putt to about two feet and made birdie. Ortiz, needing to make his putt to force a playoff, just rolled it by the hole.

“It’s a crazy game, when it gets down to stuff like that,” said Kucher. “You literally can’t miss those shots.”

Ortiz finished at 5-under, 139, for the tournament, while Shultz missed hoisting this Cup by two strokes, with a 4-under, 140.

Kucher’s victory makes him the youngest player to win the Ogopogo and KGCC Invitational back-to-back, and sets himself up nicely for his return to the Vancouver Golf Tour with the Fraser Valley Open this week and the Vancouver Open Sept. 22-24.

The 54-hole Fraser Valley Open hosts a field of about 120 pros and amateurs, that will tee off at the Chilliwack Golf Club on Friday, followed by the Sandpiper Golf Course Saturday, and the Falls Golf Course on Sunday, and is sponsored by First Class Waste Inc., the same group that sponsors Kucher.

“I’m happy where I’m at right now,” he said. “But that’s a big one. It’s a $10,000 first place paycheque and a $25,000 purse, so that’s a big one for me.”

After finishing fourth on the VGT last year, Kucher is currently 20th in player standings but has played in half as many VGT events as leader Kevin Stinson.

With the victory in Kelowna, however, the Greater Trail native is confident, perhaps more than usual, that he will climb the leaderboard this weekend.

“It’s going to be good,” said Kucher. “I’m back on TSN 1040 Sunday morning.”

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