James Lepp’s Big Break includes 'sauce-y' shot (with video)
Abbotsford golfer’s hockey-hybrid chip shot amazes, confounds his opponents
Abbotsford’s James Lepp has cut a fairly high profile with his apeaarances on the Golf Channel’s Big Break Greenbrier series.
Photograph by: Mark Ashman, Mark Ashman/Golf Channel
VANCOUVER — James Lepp’s resume reads something like this: NCAA champion, multiple B.C. Amateur and Canadian Tour winner, Kikkor Golf founder and now, inventor of the saucer pass.
Lepp’s saucer pass is a hybrid of sorts, part hockey snap shot and part golf chip shot. Like Lepp himself, the shot is outside the box. But it works, which the Abbotsford native proved to any doubters in this week’s episode of Golf Channel’s Big Break Greenbrier series.
In a game of Tic-Tac-Toe, where each contestant had to chip his ball into nets to earn Xs or Os, Lepp went a perfect six-for-six with his saucer pass and eventually earned immunity. He has advanced to the final three of the popular reality series and also earned a $5,000 bonus for winning the Tic Tac Toe competition.
It’s a shot he stumbled upon about four years ago while practising after a failed attempt to Monday qualify for a Nationwide Tour event.
“I tried it by chance while goofing around on a practice green with now PGA Tour player Brendan Steele,” Lepp says. “It was clear from the start that it works. I honestly didn’t even practise it that much. I’ve used it in tournaments. I think I’m about 12-for-14 or so in up and downs. The first ever sauce in a tourney was with (Adam) Hadwin actually in Victoria. You should ask him about that.”
“It was quite something,” Hadwin recalled. “I had heard about it and seen some guys imitating it, but never seen him do it himself. He was about 15 yards from the green with a pin on only by about five or six paces. I saw him take some practice ‘swings’ and thought ‘what is he doing?’
“Then he pulled it off and got up and down. It was something else.”
The saucer was born to combat Lepp’s occasional yips when it came to chipping around the green. Lepp can, at times, be a nervous wreck on the course during tournaments and was struggling with chipping from tight lies near the green. So he started to experiment.
He moved his right hand down the shaft of his wedge so that he was holding it more like a hockey stick than a golf club. During the swing, the club never leaves the ground. For a short chip, he simply grounds the club about 18 inches behind the ball and slides it along the grass, much the way you would attempt a wrist shot in hockey.
He made it look easy on this week’s episode of The Big Break.
“He made the other contestants look foolish,” Hadwin said with a chuckle and then added: “It’ll be the next rule the USGA looks at.”
But unlike anchored putters, Lepp thinks the saucer — which he has called the belly putter of chipping — is here to stay.
“It’s a legal strike,” Lepp said. “The ball is not on the face of the club like it would be on a scoop.”
In a recent blog on the saucer on his Kikkor.com website, Lepp said it took him a couple of years to come up with enough nerve to try the shot in competition.
“Even though I always knew how effective it was, to actually pull the trigger in a tournament scenario was not easy,” Lepp wrote. “I recall telling my competitors before the round, or before hitting the sauce what was going to happen. The shot itself is easy; but knowing your playing partners are saying “WTF?” as you do it makes it difficult. A pre-sauce disclaimer always helps.”
Since the Big Break began airing in early October, Lepp has been gathering with increasing numbers of friends and family at the Abbotsford Cactus Club to watch each new episode on Tuesday nights.
Needless to say, the place went nuts this past Tuesday when he sauced his way into the final three.
Lepp said he hasn’t had any trouble keeping the final result of Big Break a secret. The show was taped this past spring in West Virginia and the 12 contestants are sworn to secrecy.
“Not tough to be honest because I didn’t want to tell anybody,” he said. “The cheering at Cactus Club when I go six-for-six in Tic-Tac-Sauce makes it all worth it. “
Asked if he used any of the $5,000 he won in this week’s episode to buy rounds for the house, Lepp said he’d already spent that money to enter PGA Tour qualifying school, where he failed to get through the first stage. Too bad, it would have bought a lot of appies.
Lepp is thoroughly enjoying his Big Break experience. His Twitter account, @jameslepp, has exploded and the humorous blogs he has posted on his experience have received a good response.
"I’ve had a few suggestions that I should become some sort of commentator," Lepp said. "I don’t know if my vocabulary is stout enough."
And all that exposure hasn’t been bad for business at Kikkor, the golf shoe company he started not long after graduating from the University of Washington with a business degree.
"It’s not blowing the roof off," Lepp said of business at Kikkor. "But it undoubtedly helps."
We’ll know soon if Lepp can sauce his way to victory. Only two Big Break episodes remain, next Tuesday and the season finale on Dec. 18. Both air at 6 p.m. PST on Golf Channel.
On Twitter: Twitter.com/bradziemer
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