The Birchbank Open wouldn’t be complete without one of Greater Trail’s best.
Returning to vie for his second Birchbank title didn’t look very promising for Vancouver Golf Tour (VGT) professional Garrett Kucher, who had a commitment pending. Yet, a last minute schedule change relieved the 25-year-old Trail golfer from his obligation, and he made the 15-hour drive from Fort St. John to the Silver City on Monday so he could tee off today at Birchbank.
“All my family and friends were asking if I was playing,” said Kucher. “So it was a win-win because I would have played with my sponsors, which I enjoy, but now I get to be back with my family, and my grandparents can come out and watch, and I get to stay in my own bed for a week.”
Kucher has been on the road since March, playing a different venue across BC almost every week. The last one was in northern BC where Kucher finished in fourth place at the Mighty Peace Brewing Co. Charity Pro-Am in Fort St. John, one of his best results on the Tour this season.
In a year that has had its ups and downs, a return to his home course is a welcome one.
“I’m pumped, I just had a session this morning and I’m feeling really good,” said Kucher. “My Papa (Ed Kucher) who has been a member for years before I was born. When I won (the Birchbank Open) that was probably one of the best things that has happened to me.
“He taught me how to play at his house, just down the road, and he’s walking with me the whole way, going to come caddie for me … So it’s just a special tournament for me.”
At off-tour venues, the playing ambassador for Predator Ridge won the 2018 Rattlesnake Men’s Open in Osoyoos back in April, and came fifth at the Ogopogo in Kelowna last month, a tournament he won the previous year.
Kucher has finished in the top-10 on the VGT four times this year and is 17th in winnings. The previous two seasons, he won seven times and finished fourth overall in 2016.
In June, Kucher also received an exemption to play in Golf Canada’s Mackenzie Tour tournament at Gallagher’s Canyon in Kelowna. He was hitting the ball well going into it, but had a tough opening round and failed to make the cut. Still, the experience is one that the former Selkirk College Saints hockey player will use to his advantage.
“It’s the next step in my career, and I have lots of starts coming up,” said Kucher. “My goal was to get there and see what it was like at age 25, so that goal is met, so I’m happy in those terms.”
Golf is challenging, both mentally and physically, and with the competition as intense and close as it is, breaking into the top echelon takes hard work, persistence, and patience. And, like most worthwhile goals, it is immensely difficult.
“Patience is a hard thing, because I have so many friends now that are Web.com, European Tour, PGA Tour – like (Adam) Hadwin and (Nick) Taylor and them, and I play with them all the time. But obviously, the guys that are making the big bucks are doing more than the other guys well. They are doing 4 of the 6 things well, and we’re doing 3-of-6 things well.”
Following the Birchbank event, Kucher will return to the VGT and play in the upcoming Tour Championship and Vancouver Open.
After that, Kucher heads to Europe to enter the Qualifying School for the European Tour. The school is held in three stages at a series of venues in the UK and Continental Europe. About 1,000 competitors enter the Qualifying School each year, all aiming for a European Tour card, awarded to the top 25 and ties following the final stage. Kucher must progress through all three stages, playing 252 holes under intense pressure.
The leading 25 players will earn Membership of The European Tour for the following season.
Until then, Kucher would like nothing more than to repeat his 2016 victory at Birchbank, and trigger a strong finish to the season.
“I think this (Birchbank) is what started my streak the year before. I won here and then I went and won in Fort St. John.”
Kucher joins about 100 other players teeing off today at the Birchbank Golf Course, with the Men’s Open event continuing on Saturday and Sunday.
“There’s a lot of things to stay positive for and keep working hard toward. I’m excited about where I am right now.”