Winding down stellar career, Kocher leads Terps into Big Ten golf championships at BCC

Maryland golf coach Jason Rodenhaver talks about the Big Ten men’s championships that begin Friday at Baltimore Country Club Five Farms. (Don Markus, Baltimore Sun video)

BETHESDA — As a promising young player growing up in golf-crazy North Carolina, David Kocher had grown accustomed to teeing it up for his school. Every match, every year, from middle school through high school at Charlotte Christian.

So why should college be any different?


Only one problem: Kocher had to a find a school where he could realistically compete for that chance. Maryland men's coach Jason Rodenhaver acknowledges now that Kocher, who wanted to follow his parents and his older brother by going to Penn State, "fell in our laps."

Maryland men's golf coach Jason Rodenhaver watches senior David Kocher on the practice tee Wednesday at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda as the Terps get ready for the 2018 Big Ten championships scheduled to begin Friday at Baltimore Country Club Five Farms.
Maryland men's golf coach Jason Rodenhaver watches senior David Kocher on the practice tee Wednesday at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda as the Terps get ready for the 2018 Big Ten championships scheduled to begin Friday at Baltimore Country Club Five Farms. (Don Markus / Baltimore Sun)

We knew from day one that he was going to be a player.

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Even after Kocher chose the Terps over North Carolina-Wilmington, there was no guarantee he would get the opportunity to start as a freshman. But shortly after arriving in College Park in the fall of 2014, Kocher, now a senior, began to show promise.


"We knew from day one that he was going to be a player," Rodenhaver recalled Wednesday. "We had our first qualifier his freshman year and he was the low man, and we're like, 'We found something here.' … I wish I had nine of 'em [like Kocher]."

When the 2018 Big Ten championships begin Friday at Baltimore Country Club Five Farms, Kocher will become only the third player in school history to start every match for the Terps. There's also a good chance he will finish with the top career scoring average.

Kocher is one of the most decorated players in school history. He will likely qualify for his fourth straight NCAA regional. He has won twice — the Firestone Invitational in the fall of his sophomore year and Auburn's Tiger Invitational this spring.

Will Koras has been cleared to play golf and lacrosse this spring at Loyola Blakefield

"It's been crazy. I've exceeded all expectations," Kocher said Wednesday at Congressional Country Club before the team played a practice round in preparation for the Big Ten championships. "As a team, it's just to get to regionals. Unfortunately, we haven't done that."


The Terps, who finished eighth in 2017 when the Big Ten championships came to Baltimore for the first of a three-year run, are hoping for better results this weekend at Five Farms, where Kocher tied for fourth a year ago.

"I think this year won't be as rough a task as it has been the past couple of years," Kocher said. "Illinois is not as good as they have been. Obviously they're still very, very good, but they haven't performed as well as they have in years past.

"There's lot of really, really good teams, but I think we have a really good one as well. I think it's a little more wide open. If we play as we did in the fall and have a magical week, I definitely think we can pull it out. … We've been gearing up for this all year. This is our postseason."

Maybe some of the magic Kocher showed in winning last month's Tiger Invitational can rub off on the Terps. Kocher shot 11-under par for the three rounds and won by one shot after getting up-and-down for par on his last two holes.

The Takoma Park native expects this week’s event to be “a lot of fun,” marking the return from a rib injury that’s hampered him in recent weeks.

The closing par came after Kocher hit his tee shot behind a tree and had to punch out into the fairway. He then hit a 130-yard wedge on his approach to 15 feet, and made the "a very clutch par" putt to edge fellow senior Ben Schlottman of Auburn for the individual title.

"It's actually kind of funny," Kocher said. "He's from North Carolina and we grew up playing high school golf together. He was playing in the group ahead of me and I watched him make birdie after birdie after birdie. He was like five or six back and shot 65 the last day."

Kocher, who'll join John "Harvey" Haddock and Sean Bosdosh as the only players in Maryland history to tee it up in every event over four years, has a chance to break John Popeck's career scoring average of 72.56 and Popeck's single-season average of 71.50, set in 2010-11.

"It would just be icing on the cake, honestly," Kocher said. "I've had a pretty good career here. I've really enjoyed my time here with my teammates. If I can hold that, it would be pretty awesome. There's been some unbelievable guys who've played here as well."

Kocher, who will graduate next month with a degree in American studies, hopes to start playing professionally this summer and will try to qualify for either Web.com Tour or PGA Tour events. He knows he might have play internationally, as Bosdosh is doing in Latin America.

Now 79, former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman, a Hall of Famer who grew up in Bethesda, still plays daily to a handicap of 4 or 5.

"I'm just trying to see what professional golf's all about," Kocher said.

Kelly Mitchum, who has been Kocher's coach for the past year, said he is starting to see results from a "substantial" swing change they made last summer. Mitchum, the head of the Short Game Academy at the Pinehurst Resort, said Kocher is becoming a more complete player.

"He is just a real solid ball-striker," Mitchum said Wednesday. "He's just a consistent player that doesn't make a lot of mistakes. We've kind of tried to keep refining what he's done and just try to make what he's done a little simpler. He works hard at it."

Rodenhaver, who played at Maryland during the early 1990s and has remained at the school coaching both the men's and women's teams as an assistant and as head coach for 23 years, believes Kocher is as solid a player as the Terps have had since he joined the program.

"I think he can go as far as he can go," Rodenhaver said Wednesday. "He's won on the college level, which is a pretty good indicator for success. He's a competitor, and you can't teach that. He's a really nice kid, but when the lights go on, he's tough. He's comfortable in his own skin. He likes the competition."

Big Ten championships

»Baltimore Country Club Five Farms East Course, 7,181 yards, par 70

»Friday, 9 a.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.; Sunday 8 a.m.

A familiar name and face in Maryland golf captured the Maryland State Golf Association's 95th Maryland State Open Championship Wednesday at the Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace.

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