James Lepp's Big Break has him back loving the links
Amateur-turned-entrepreneur reconsiders going pro
VANCOUVER — Even before he auditioned this past spring for the next instalment of Golf Channel’s Big Break series, James Lepp was falling back in love with the game.
And his appearance on the show, which was taped in June and debuts Oct. 2, only served to whet his appetite for a return to competitive golf.
Lepp, the Abbotsford native who walked away from the game in 2008 after a brilliant amateur career and a brief professional one, says he has almost decided he wants back in.
“I would say I am closer,” Lepp said Monday after the Golf Channel officially released the names of the 12 competitors on its Big Break Greenbrier series. “I have been playing pretty well and my game seems to be getting better.”
Lepp was invited to audition for the show this past spring and had to think long and hard about whether he wanted to do it. A major premise of the Big Break series, now in its 18th season, is that it features players dreaming of a PGA Tour career.
Lepp, a former NCAA champion at the University of Washington, once had those aspirations but soured on the game and in recent years has devoted all his energies to Kikkor Golf, the shoe company he started in 2009.
“It was kind of a risky decision because I could have very much hated going on the show,” Lepp said. “I wouldn’t say even right now that I am 100 per cent ready to get back into it, but I am definitely a lot closer than when I decided to audition and lot higher than I was two years ago.”
Lepp, now 28, says golf is fun again for him. Of course, it helps when you play well and Lepp has been doing just that. Earlier this summer, he won Ray Stewart’s annual pro-am at Ledgeview (in Abbotsford) with a 64.
“In all seriousness, it could have been below 60,” Lepp said. “It was probably one of the best ball-striking rounds I have had up there. Every birdie chance was inside 10 feet and I didn’t make too many putts. So that was a good round.”
So was the 61 he shot two weeks ago, also at Ledgeview.
Lepp can’t talk about how the Big Break series ended, but he did enjoy the two weeks he spent competing against 11 other golfers at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. The winner receives a substantial cash prize as well as an exemption into next summer’s Greenbrier Classic on the PGA Tour.
“It was a blast, it was a lot of fun,” he said.
“You spend so much time around 11 other guys. You are living with them, you are with them all the time. And with how they cast the show, they are all very interesting people. You make a lot of great friends on the show in that short amount of time.”
Lepp seemed destined for the PGA Tour after a highly decorated amateur career.
In addition to becoming the first Canadian to win the NCAA individual title in 2005, Lepp won four straight B.C. Amateur championships, won a Canadian Tour event as an amateur in 2003 and that same summer captured the prestigious Pacific Coast Amateur at Capilano in West Vancouver. He won his second Canadian Tour title, this time as a pro, in 2007 at Hazelmere.
Now, Lepp sounds like he’s ready to resume that pro career.
He’s seriously contemplating going to PGA Tour qualifying school this fall and says the fact this is the last year players will be able to play their way onto the PGA Tour via Q-school is pushing him in that direction.
“This the last chance to get right onto the main tour, which is what I would want. So now I have to really consider whether I am going to give that a go in the fall.”
And he also has to consider Kikkor, which despite stiff competition from industry heavyweights such as FootJoy, continues to grow.
“Who knows, if I go to Q-school and don’t get through, then it’s back to business,” he said.
“But if I was to go and make it through, at that point maybe I would have to make some more hires.”
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