After playing Ultimate for nearly 20 years, Bob Kulchuk fell in love with disc golf in 2012. Since then, one of the few Pro Masters members of Team Discmania has played in close to 150 disc golf events. In fact, he does more than just play disc golf. He plays a vital role in growing disc golf in the New England area of the United States.
After growing up in Enfield, Connecticut, Kulchuk now lives in Littleton, Massachusetts with his family. During the 2017 season, we met Kulchuk at the Discmania Combine stop in Missouri. Taking a trip halfway across the country was certainly worth it for Kulchuk.
A new addition to Team Discmania, Kulchuk has seen an entire overhaul of his bag, but has found many Discmania discs to fit into his game nicely. We talked to Kulchuk to hear about his disc golf history and how the start of the season is going.
Who is Bob Kulchuk when he is not playing disc golf?
Since I began playing in 2012, and definitely more so in the last couple of years, disc golf has become a huge part of my life. I do, however, have several interests outside of disc golf. First and foremost, I am a father of a wonderful 10 (soon to be 11) year old daughter. I am also an artist when I can find the time - I make porcelain pottery and also work with fused glass. I sell my work in a cooperative gallery and sit on the executive board of the gallery as the Treasurer.
Oh, and I also work fulltime as the Chief Financial Officer of a special needs private residential school. We work with troubled boys (mostly teens) who have significant behavioral and emotional challenges. It is both exhausting and incredibly rewarding work.
You have a family… Are they into disc golf as well?
My wife and I met playing Ultimate about 20 years ago. I played Ultimate until I found a love of disc golf and finally hung up my cleats in 2015. My wife doesn’t play disc golf, but my daughter has played in a few juniors tournaments. She enjoys playing in our local doubles league (as my partner) every once in awhile.
Bob is an active member of disc golf community - especially in his home state Massachusetts.
You’re also the PDGA Coordinator of Massachusetts. What does that involve?
Correct. I took over for the previous State Coordinator mid-term in 2015. Then I was elected in the normal election process in 2016. My term ends in August 2018, but I plan to run again this year for another term.
I am responsible for approving all the B-Tier and C-Tier events in the state and coordinating the schedule as best we can to avoid any conflicts. It's mostly working with the TD’s to build out the schedule to maximize the number of events that run without any conflicting events on the same day. I really try to ensure that events have the best chance for success and that players aren’t put in the position of having to choose between multiple events on the same day. We are blessed with a fairly large community so events tend to fill quickly and even multiple events running concurrently usually fill up.
Besides the Coordinator positition, and playing in tournaments, are you otherwise active in disc golf?
Yes, I have been running tournaments for the past couple of years. Last year, I upgraded the main tournament that I run to a B-Tier in 2017 and will be running it again as a B-Tier this April. I am also active at the club level acting as the Treasurer (and Tournament Director) for the Coggshall Park Disc Golf Club.
Regionally, I have recently been elected to the position of Vice President of the New England Flying Disc Association (NEFA). I am excited to be working with some of the new additions to the executive board to revitalize NEFA and continue to shape the organization for the players it serves.
This year, I plan to start an after school club at work to provide another outlet to some of our boys who would otherwise probably never even know what disc golf is much less get the opportunity to play.
What’s your strongest feature as a competitor? What separates you from the rest?
I do not have the biggest arm in the game, but I do try to be consistent. I would say that being consistent, playing within my ability, playing smart and minimizing mistakes is the key to my success on the course.
How did you prepare for season 2018?
In New England, we have a Team Challenge league where co-ed teams of 20 players represent their home course and play matches against other teams from other courses during a season that runs from October through April. Matches are played regardless of the weather so playing through adverse conditions throughout the winter prepares me to play in whatever weather I encounter throughout the year.
I am always watching and re-watching videos of the top MPO’s playing, especially on courses where I will be going to play in tournaments. It keeps me motivated and hungry to get out there and throw!
This off season, I also made a concerted effort to work on strengthening my core and losing weight. I am down about 15 pounds and am just getting started. I am hopeful that losing weight, stretching and core strengthening will help alleviate my back issues that have plagued me since my Ultimate days when I used to throw my body all over the field.
As a new Team Discmania member Bob is still working the Discmania molds into his bag.
Your season started with the Las Vegas Challenge. How did the first big event of the year go? What can you take from this one going further into the season?
I have only been on Team Discmania for a couple of months now so I am still learning all of these new discs. Since December 1, I have essentially replaced all but two molds in my bag with Discmania. I was really concerned that I would take a big step backwards until I could get comfortable with all new discs, but since I threw mostly Innova prior to switching, I was able to find comparable replacements for most of my molds.
Living in Massachusetts, field work in the winter months is hard to do regularly with the sub-freezing temps and snow, so I am still not 100% confident in my shots but I am getting there. My season actually started at the Shelley Sharpe in January in Arizona. At that point my bag was still very new and I had very few expectations. Through three rounds, I went out-of-bounds 13 times, most by only a few feet. I attribute this to just not having been confident yet with all my new drivers. I did manage to improve my round ratings every round, but it was generally a disappointing event. My goal exiting that event was to dial in my drives since most of my OB strokes came from errant drives using new discs which I did not yet trust.
Going into the Las Vegas Challenge, my goal was to maintain control over my drives and work on consistency. The wind was obviously a factor, but I managed to only go OB two times in three rounds. In some cases, I sacrificed a bit of distance to maintain control, but ending just one stroke off the cut line was within my expectations for the event. I am slowly becoming more comfortable with my bag and I am really looking forward to continuing to improve as the year goes on.
What you looking forward to most in 2018?
I am really looking forward to getting back to the US Masters this year. The last time I played the event I was an amateur so playing this year, representing Team Discmania, will be a real treat. I am also really looking forward to Pro Masters Worlds and I believe I will also be playing Pro Open Worlds in Vermont because I really love the Smugglers Notch courses and resort area. I am playing a handful of other A-Tiers as well.
Last year I played 33 sanctioned events. This year, I may play fewer, but will play higher profile A-Tiers and Majors. I also have a stretch goal of qualifying for the USDGC but that may more realistically be a 2019 goal.
What’s your goal for 2018 – or your main goals if you have several?
I am really trying to focus on becoming more healthy this year. I have embarked on a weight-loss program and core strengthening program that has already started to have an impact. My main life goal is to lose 40 pounds by the end of the summer. (I am already 15 pounds into this goal). My disc golf goal is to reach 970 rating in 2018. I suspect that these two goals will go hand in hand!
Any new molds or discs making their way to your bag? Are you testing something new?
Virtually all of my bag is new being new to the Team this season. Before joining the team, I threw the DDx along with all Innova discs. New to my bag in the last two months are: TD2, DD2, FD3, PD, FD, MD1, MD2, MD4, P1, and P2.
I still throw a VCobra (because DM doesn’t really have an off the shelf understable mid yet) and a Pig (because nothing is quite a Pig!).
Which Discmania disc helped you to reinvent your game?
The TD2 and DD2 have been great as I’ve really started to dial them in on drives and I am getting great consistent distance. Playing in Vegas last week though, I’d have to say that the C-Line MD4 (super flat run) was my go to in the wind. It was very consistent for me and really held up great to the wind. It really helped me to feel confident on all of my approach shots especially on the long par 3’s where I do not have the drive distance to get there for birdie. Being able to manage those holes confident that I can put that MD4 inside 15 feet on upshots despite the wind really helped reinvent my game!