Selkirk College golf instructor reaches new heights

Former Saints player Garrett Kucher returns as a professional golfer.

Garrett Kucher was once a student in the Selkirk College Saints Golf Camp and will return this summer as one of the professionals on the impressive roster of instructors.

The Selkirk College Saints Golf Camp is adding a new professional to its roster of instructors this summer — though he’s not a new face to the organization.

Garrett Kucher is returning to the golf camp for a fourth season as instructor, but this time it will also be as a professional golfer.

Kucher is a former Selkirk College student and member of the Saints hockey team during its recent dynasty when he helped secure British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League championship in 2013-14. Last year, Kucher traded skates for spikes to become a golf professional when he joined the Evolve Pro Tour in Spain and Vancouver Golf Tour.

It was a natural progression for the 23-year-old athlete, who spent seven summers as a student at the Selkirk College Saints Golf Camp before becoming one of its instructors in 2013.

Kucher now splits his time between Vancouver and Scottsdale, Ariz., while he works towards reaching his goal of playing on the PGA Tour. Getting there means many hours of practice, playing and planning. But Kucher says his time spent training new golfers at the Saints Golf Camp is always rewarding.

“I used to be there to learn, but now I’m there doing the teaching,” he says. “That said, I think all the instructors learn every year, as every year brings new students and new golf swings. As an instructor, I learn to teach different age groups different things, as no one’s golf swing is ever the same and no specific golf swing is ever a perfect one.”

The Saints Golf Camp attracts students age seven to 17 each summer to build on their fundamentals and their love of golf. Instructors give training on all aspects of the game, from analyzing the mechanics of a student’s swing to improving their mental game.

The golf camp has been growing annually, starting with 19 kids in 2005. This year more than 70 are expected to register for the program

“It’s become known as the only one of its kind and continues to be an exceptional opportunity for young golfers,” says Kim Verigin, Selkirk College’s athletics and recreation co-ordinator, whose department runs the program. “Regardless of ability level, students can immerse themselves in a great sport for a full week, learning new skills, fine-tuning old ones, meeting new friends and benefiting from the expertise of some exceptional instructors.”

Students get more than 24 hours of training during the camp, play two nine-hole rounds of golf and one 18-hole round, get swing analysis, video analysis, as well as specialized instruction on difficult golf situations. Kucher says the analysis is the best golf training technology available.

“This allows us to watch angle of attack, club position, open face, closed face, head movement and many other things in the golf swing,” he says. “It allows us to break down the swing step-by-step, ensuring the students get the best adjustments possible to benefit their swing.

“At golf camp we describe and teach almost every training and practice method there is, from lining up your ball, to the break of each putt, or making sure you have perfect ball position with every club in the bag.”

The July 11 to 15 camp is based at the Castlegar Golf Club and Champion Lakes Golf Course. Students can participate either in the day camps or stay in the residence for the week-long event.

But it’s not all chip shots and putting skills. On Thursday students take a break to enjoy some alternative activities.

“Kids get to go to do a skills competition and then spend the afternoon on the 100-foot slip-n-slide, rock climbing in the Cave (a bouldering facility at the Castlegar Campus), and various other activities in and around the gym,” says Verigin. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

With Kucher are four more professional golfers that work with the students:

• Denny McArthur — 40 years teaching, CPGA Pro

• Pat Biln — Head Pro, Castlegar Golf Club, CPGA Pro

• Kevin Nesbitt — Head Pro, Champion Lakes, CPGA Pro

• Bryan Boyes — CPGA Pro

Kucher says his former instructors — now his teaching colleagues — were important for his development.

“Denny McArthur has saved me a couple strokes for sure, just by teaching me the rules and my surroundings on the golf course,” Kucher says. “His love, passion, and knowledge for the game has shown me how special the game can be. Pat Biln’s skill set has taught me how to be creative when hitting different shots.

“To not leave anyone out … I think everyone has taught me something along the way since I came to the camp as a student for many years.”

In the meantime, Kucher works tirelessly on his own skill set, with an eye to making the Canadian Pro Golf Association Tour. But he says he’ll always consider his Saints Golf Camp experience crucial for a golfer’s development.

“There isn’t a better spot for a student to come if he or she wants to get serious about the sport,” he says. “Not only do you get instruction for seven to eight hours a day from very knowledgeable and skilled teachers, but you get to use top-of-the-line technology and training tools to work on your game.

“If you want to take the game seriously and better your game, this is the place to be,” he says. “I still, to this day, value the knowledge and skills I was taught when I was a student.”

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