“Still” Learning And Improving Takes Ed Oldham To The Hall Of Fame

Ed Oldham and Jennifer Kupcho
Ed Oldham training Jennifer Kupcho during her college days.

After 15,000 lessons—including a high-powered brother and sister duo—the long-time instructor at The Ranch Country Club will be inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame.

By Anthony Cotton

Ask Ed Oldham for some of the memorable pointers he’s picked up in a venerable career that includes 38 years as an instructor at The Ranch Country Club in Westminster, and he quickly points out how James Sieckmann taught him how to help players understand how to practice, and that John Dunigan showed him how simple verbal cues can help players get to desired positions during the swing.

And after picking them up, how long has Oldham been sharing these tips with his students…15 years…30?

How about just in the last year.

“As long as I’m doing this for a living, then I need to continue to learn and improve,” he said. “So I still try to spend time with the teachers and watch them teach and learn from them.”

It’s that kind of attitude that has taken Oldham from a golf-loving child in Nebraska, who would be dropped off at the course in the early morn by his father and play all day until Dad returned home from work, to one of the most sought-after (and still golf-loving) teachers in Colorado.

In recognition of a career that he estimates has spanned more than 15,000 lessons, Oldham was recently voted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. The date of his induction ceremony has yet to be determined; the 2020 awards ceremony was postponed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Every year, our 35-member board narrows its list of nominated candidates four or five individuals who must then receive two-thirds of the votes or induction. From this highly selective process, Ed Oldham emerged as our lone inductee for 2021. Not only does his record of success instructing such champions as Steve Ziegler, Zahkai Brown, A.J. Ott and, of course, Jennifer and Steven Kupcho speak for itself, but his contributions to the Colorado PGA Section, U.S. Kids Golf and The Ranch Country Club for nearly four decades reflect the kind of dedication to excellence we strive to recognize.” – Jon Rizzi, Executive Director of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame

With a resume that includes being designated as a PGA Certified Master Professional in Golf Instruction, the highest teaching honor awarded by the organization, along with numerous other state and national awards, Oldham’s inclusion in the Hall was a fait accompli—even so, it didn’t lessen the joy he said he felt at getting the congratulatory telephone call.

“It was a nice phone call, and you know, it’s just a tremendous honor,” he said. “You look at the list of people who have been inducted and it’s really a who’s who of Colorado golf…to be included among them is quite humbling, to be honest.”

Ironically, it was just before he moved to Colorado that Oldham realized he wanted to make a living teaching and sharing his love of the game with others.

“It was the summer before we came; Rich Skinner, whose daughter Val played on the LPGA Tour, was the pro at North Platte Country Club in Nebraska and he asked me if I wanted to work for him,” Oldham recalled. “It was kind of a small operation, but being there I thought, ‘I really like what he does’ and from that point on, I knew what I wanted to do—he was my inspiration.”

Another pointer that Oldham received—this time early in his career—was that if a transcendent talent should ever walk onto the range at a club professional’s course, he or she better be ready to make the most of it. So it was when Mike and Janet Kupcho brought their children, Steven, then later Jennifer, to The Ranch more than a decade ago, beginning a relationship that still flourishes today.

Steven, a winner earlier this season on the minor-league Dakotas Tour, has been knocking on the door of golf’s big time in recent years—of course, Jennifer has already busted through, winning the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur tournament in 2019, then making her debut on the LPGA Tour, amassing a number of top-10 finishes in the process.

Earlier this season, she won the CoBank Colorado Women Open, then missed making the weekend cut in the men’s event by a single shot, after being paired with her brother in the opening two rounds. Steven finished tied for 26th, albeit with a sterling 14-under score in the event.

In a letter to the Hall of Fame touting his nomination, Steven Kupcho wrote “Ed Oldham cares about each and every student and wants them to be the best golfers and the best people that they can be. Young, old, male, female, rich or poor, Ed Oldham is THE best golf instructor around.”

Jennifer Kupcho was in eighth grade when she initially came to see Oldham; while they’re still working together today, sometimes via emails and video, sometimes in person (he recently went to see her at the Women’s PGA Championship in Pennsylvania), he’s quick to point out that much of the credit for her success is due to Kupcho’s drive.

“When she was in high school, I wasn’t sitting there thinking, ‘Wow, she’s going to be one of the best players in the world,'” he said. “But she’s never stopped improving; so many of these kids, when they get to college and they’re dealing with classes and practices and time management, it stops for them.

“That wasn’t the case for Jennifer, she just kept getting better and she’s still climbing that ladder.”

So is Oldham. The trip back East afforded him the chance to get together with Dunigan, where, after nearly four decades in the game, he marveled at the simple beauty of his peer telling one of his students to turn their shirt buttons back towards the clubhouse as a way of completing their should turn.

“Still trying to learn and improve,” he said.

 

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