At the Raintree Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, a 9-year-old David Kocher lined up his shot. Just a few feet separated him from victory against his toughest opponent: his dad, John. Earlier that day, the young golfer had played exceptionally well on his hometown course while his father faltered. David, who had learned the game from his father, grandfather, and uncle, was finally going to triumph over his teacher.
As David’s ball rolled past the hole, he broke down in tears.
“Trying to beat [my grandfather], trying to beat my dad, and trying to beat my uncle were always my biggest goals growing up,” David explained of his early golf aspirations. Because these men exemplified the finest of the sport to the young player, he wanted nothing more than to beat them.
Competing in his first U.S. Amateur highlighted David’s experience, but it was the connection to his family that made the journey meaningful. David has since qualified for two more U.S. Amateurs and continues to pursue the competition this year. Even though he continues to advance on a national scale, David has always looked to his father for golfing guidance.
“My dad’s definitely been the biggest influence in my life from a golf standpoint. He’s always caddied for me, he’s always helped me out, he always claims he’s my coach,” David said with a smile. “He’s been a great person to help me with my mental game, with my swing, with everything.”
While John acknowledges his role in his son’s development as a golfer, he also notes that the dynamics have shifted. At David’s current elite level of play, John acts more like an adviser than an instructor.
“When he was younger, it would be more of a father-son [relationship]; I’d be instructing him. But then he got to a level where I have not seen, so I don’t give him much advice anymore,” John explained.
“I’m there more of as a sounding board. It’s more of a confirmation process now.”
For as talented as David has become, though, John applauds his maturity and poise, noting that his son has handled his growing success admirably.
“If you went out there tomorrow, if he was in first place or if he was in last place, you wouldn’t be able to tell. That’s a real attribute for a golfer,” John said of David’s on-course demeanor. “He doesn’t get too high, but he doesn’t get too low. He doesn’t get upset on the course, but he doesn’t get out of control if he’s playing really well. He’s just got a really good, level head on the golf course and I’m really proud of him. Over all of these years, he is someone who you can be really proud of.”
As a senior in his final season at UMD, David plans to focus to his team. He hopes to utilize his performances to motivate and inspire his teammates as they pursue competition this spring.
“I’m trying to make it more competitive,” he explained of his plan to intensify the team’s dynamics. “I don’t want our team just not competing every day, because then you’re just not getting better.
“That’s kind of what I’ve learned throughout my whole life is that if you work hard every day, work harder than the next guy, you’ll improve. So that’s kind of what I try to do, just try to get better and just try to work all of the guys on my team, because if they see me working hard, they’re going to want to do the same. I’ve been trying to play really hard, set a good example, and hopefully it translates into good golf.”