Canadians getting the hang of this Big Break thing
James Lepp looking to become the second Canadian in four seasons to win the Golf Channel reality show
Published on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 10:50AM EST
For the second time in the last four seasons, a Canadian has made it all the way to the finals of the Golf Channel’s Big Break reality golf show.
James Lepp of Abbotsford, B.C., booked his spot in the final by winning the immunity challenge in Tuesday's second to last episode of the season - the second straight week Lepp captured the $5,000 prize challenge which gave him a one shot advantage heading into the elimination portion of the show.
Lepp is a former NCAA champion who gave up the game shortly after turning pro and focused his attention on a new start-up business, Kikkor, which makes “awesomely different golf shoes”. The 28-year-old, responsible for introducing the golf world to the saucer pass, says being on the show has reignited his competitive spirit. (His attempt to earn a PGA Tour card at the final Q-School tournament came up short as he failed to advance to the final stage last month)
Lepp and his supporters have been gathering at the Cactus Club in Abbotsford each Tuesday night to follow his progress throughout this season - the series was shot this past spring at the Greenbrier in West Virginia and competitors are sworn to secrecy as to its outcome.
Lepp faces Georgia golfer Mark Silvers in the finale with the winner taking home a prize package worth about $90,000, including $50,000 cash, an Adams Golf equipment deal and a $10,000 gift certificate to Dick's Sporting Goods. As well, there is an exemption into the PGA Tour’s 2013 Greenbrier Classic on the line.
Lepp hopes to join fellow Canadian David Byrne, who won Big Break Indian Wells three seasons ago. Derek Gillespie of Oshawa, Ont., previously won the Big Break Prince Edward Island in 2009.
GOODBYE, FOR NOW: While James Lepp contemplates a return to competitive golf, another Canadian pro has decided to put the clubs away - at least for the forseeable future. Jessica Shepley tells Ian Hutchinson at Golf News Now that her competitive career is over and its time to start a new chapter in her life.
“I had a great time playing, had a wonderful experience, met a lot of great people, got to travel and learn a lot about myself, but I’ve come to a point where I realize there are some other things I want in life,” she said. “As I get out and explore the working world a little bit more, I might find something, but at this point, I want to be an elementary school teacher. I love children and working with them, so I’m interested in going back to school. I love helping people. I love helping get people better and I think being in a school system and working with kids when they’re young, that’s really interesting to me."
The 29-year-old Shepley, a former PGA of Canada women's champion, has been playing with conditional status on the LPGA Tour since 2009.
59 WATCH: Cory Renfrew of Victoria carded a 59 in the first round of the All-American Golf Tour's event at the Legacy Golf Resort in Phoenix on Tuesday. Renfrew, a rookie on the PGA Tour Canada (formerly the Canadian Tour) this past season, had an eagle and 10 birdies on the par-71 course.
The All-American Tour is an Arizona-based mini tour started four years ago by Canadian Will Cumberland. It provides golfers a place to play in the winter months. This season, the Tour features four exemptions on the Web.com Tour. Recently, the Tour was acquired by the National Pro Tour, creating the largest developmental tour based in the western United States.
There have been five instances of a 59 being recorded on the PGA Tour while Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa carded a 58 on the Japanese Tour in 2010.
BIG NAME GAME: Excluding the World Golf Championships, the four majors and the FedEx Cup playoff events, which tournament had the most players in its field from the top 20 in the world rankings in 2012? If you guessed the Memorial, put yourself down for an eagle!
The Memorial attracted 15 of the top 20 players listed in this week's world ranking including world number one Rory McIlroy, number two Luke Donald and number three Tiger Woods. Only two of the current players ranked in the top 10 (Lee Westwood and Jason Dufner) skipped the event.
The only other regular tournaments that had at least 10 of the top 20 were the Northern Trust Open at Riviera (12) and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill (11).
The surprise on the list is the Transitions Championship where nine players in the top 20 showed up. That likely has to do with the course as much as anything else. The Copperhead course at Innisbrook is one of the best-kept secrets on tour, and some believe it's the best tournament course in all of Florida. Ironically, the tournament is looking for a new title sponsor and will be played as the Tampa Championship in 2013.
The other tournaments drawing at least nine players were the Phoenix Open and the Zurich Classic, which has a separate ambassador program that compensates some players in the field.
The Greenbrier Classic also offers “incentives” - appearance fees are not allowed on the PGA Tour - and it got Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson this year . It had more players from today's top 20 (eight) than the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow (seven).
The RBC Canadian Open was among seven tournaments in the regular FedEx Cup season that did not attract at least five of the top 20 - only Brandt Snedeker and Matt Kuchar made the trip to Hamilton. Most of those are products of their spot on the calendar - four are immediately before or after a major, count the Canadian Open in the latter category as it falls after the Open Championship.
Not surprising three tournaments in the Fall Series - the Frys.com Open, McGladrey Classic and Disney - were the only ones on tour that did not have anyone from today's top 20 in the field. Next year, two of those events will be part of the wrap-around PGA Tour season (Disney is no longer on the schedule) and will offer full FedEx Cup points.
LAST CHANCE: Geoff Ogilvy is down to his last chance if he wants to head into the offseason assured a tee time at Augusta National in April.
The former U.S. Open champion began the year at No. 36 and has fallen to No. 56. This is the last week of golf that counts toward the world ranking, and the Masters takes the top 50 at the end of the season.
Holding down the 50th spot is Thorbjorn Olesen, who is not playing this week. Neither is Alex Noren, who is at No. 51. George Coetzee is at No. 49 and playing the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
Besides Ogilvy, the only other player from No. 51 through No. 60 playing this week is Marcus Fraser of Australia, who is at the Johor Open.
If there are no changes in the world ranking, 14 players would be added to the field, bringing the total to 85 players going into the new season. Any winner of a PGA Tour event gets in (except for Puerto Rico), along with the top 50 after the Houston Open.
GETTING A PASS: Scott Hoch, who turned 57 last month, has taken his one-time exemption from the top 50 on the career money list to be exempt on the PGA Tour this year. Hoch never had to use the exemption while active, and he's only $760,907 from falling out of the top 50 in career money, so he might as well. Jerry Kelly, Mike Weir and Justin Leonard are using exemptions from the top 25 on the career money list. Stuart Appleby is using his exemption from the top 50, even though he is at No. 19. Appleby used his one-time exemption from the top 25 in 2010, the year he closed with a 59 to win the Greenbrier Classic.
“The only thing is that there are people who had less credentials that have been (captain), and there are those who have more credentials who haven’t been. It’s not a decision I can make. It’s a decision that people I haven’t even talked to made.” -- Larry Nelson, a three-time major champion on being passed over for a third time as Ryder Cup captain.
Files from the Associated Press were used in this report