Kucher tees off on professional golf tour

Golf is now a full-time job for Greater Trail native Garrett Kucher.

Golf is now a full-time job for Greater Trail native Garrett Kucher.

The 21-year-old scratch-golfer is taking his golf game to the next level, joining the Vancouver Pro Golf Tour a week ago in Tsawwassen after playing on a professional golf tour in Spain this winter.

“It’s cool, now I’m in a really good spot, my sponsor he’s given me the chance (to play),” said Kucher. “We signed a deal, and I just practice all day, and on weekends I play events, so it’s my job now.”

Kucher was born in Trail, but honed his golf game when he moved to West Kelowna and played for his middle school and high school golf teams. After graduation, the multi-sport athlete also played baseball with the Trail AM Ford Orioles, and attended Selkirk College, playing hockey for the Saints until he decided to concentrate full-time on golf.

“I went back to Osoyoos and worked at the golf course there again, and I won some money in a pro event in the summer and then became pro in July.”

Kucher worked at the Sandpiper Golf Club and following success in local tournaments was offered a sponsorship from First Class Waste Management, whose owner convinced the young ball-striker to turn pro and test his mettle against the best.

Following strong performances at Pro-Am tournaments in Osoyoos where he finished third and then placed fourth in a Vancouver Golf Tour event in Chilliwack last summer, as well as qualifying for the B.C. Amateur, Kucher’s sponsor set him up to play in Europe.

He joined the Evolve Tour in Murcia, Spain in January playing in seven tournaments on some of the most difficult golf courses and adverse conditions he has ever played.

“The courses (in Spain) are so much different and they are long, but they are set up to play under good conditions,” said Kucher. “But we’re still playing them in like 40-kilometre winds, and back home I’ve never seen 40-k winds. It’s right off the ocean, so when it’s windy there is nothing like it.”

Murcia, located on the Mediterranean Sea in eastern Spain, can be unforgiving and during one of the worst winters the European country has seen in years, the tour proved a challenge for the Okanagan golfer.

“The first couple events I was kind of worried because I wasn’t playing very well, and I was getting pretty down on myself because I didn’t know what was going to happen back home,” said Kucher. “You learn a whole different bag of shots over here . . . it’s all around the green. If you can’t chip or hit 50-yard shots or putt, if you don’t have a good short game you’re done. It’s a different game over there (Spain).”

Kucher’s best finish was a 16th place 7-over par 79 at La Serena, but his all-round game improved and the challenge of playing in Spain proved a valuable learning experience.

“I wasn’t really going over there to put my name on the board,” said Kucher.  “I was coming over to learn some shots and get my feet wet, and learn how to play with the big guys, and put myself into different scenarios.

“Golf doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen in one year either . . . It’s my first four months being a golf pro, so I am taking everything with a grain of salt, and just learn from all my experiences.”

Recognizing his efforts and hard work, Kucher’s sponsor extended its commitment and booked him on this summer’s Vancouver Golf Tour.

“It’s taken a lot of weight off my shoulders . . . I have an exciting year coming up, and signed with my sponsor for a full year, so I’m playing on the Vancouver Golf Tour until October then I will either go to Phoenix or back to Spain.”

Kucher showed he belongs with the best when he returned to B.C. He shot a 3-over-par 75 at his first VGT stop last week at the Brad Garside Open at the Beach Grove Golf Club in Tsawwassen, finishing in 22nd in a field of 112. He then shot an even-par 72 and gross 69 with partner Sean Ko to finish in a tie for seventh on Friday at the Canada Bread B.C. match-play qualifier.

“I knew when I came back home I’d be way more developed, and that everything will be that much easier,” said Kucher. “Any weather that’s tossed at me, it will be nothing (compared to Spain).”

His experience overseas has given Kucher a fresh outlook on the sport, reminding him why  the game of golf is one of the most challenging and mentally demanding of all sports.

“It more or less humbled me, because I didn’t know the different types of the game you have to understand, because the weather and courses in Spain are so much different . . . It’s been a long road, and at the end of the day you’re totally out of your comfort zone – I’m just wrapping my head around that this is my life now.”

Kucher continues his VGT play on Thursday at the Ledgeview Golf Course in Abbotsford, and will tee off in a dozen tournaments on the tour this year.

Follow Kucher on the VGT at vancouvergolftour.com.