James Lepp on the Pro Gap

James Lepp was going to be Canada’s next superstar when he turned pro in 2006. He hooked up with IMG Sports after winning the NCAA individual men’s title. But his amateur success never translated into professional wins, despite a single victory on the Canadian Tour. He’s now out of professional golf, having launched his Kikkor-brand golf shoes.

He talked to G4G about the challenges facing Matt Hill and Nick Taylor as they turn pro:

G4G: What advice would you give a Canadian top amateur making the transition to the pros?

James Lepp: Dont expect great things to happen; make great things happen. Theres a lot of miracle wishers out there, and while this mentality can work at the amateur ranks, it wont get you very far as a pro. The work that you put into it will directly correlate to results you see as a pro.

G4G: What would you have done differently had you the opportunity to do it again?

JL: I would have been more disciplined, worked harder, surrounded myself with a Lepp Team of sorts.

G4G: Is there a way, in your opinion, to make the transition smoother? Any suggestions on areas to avoid?

JL:  To be honest, turning pro is as simple as checking a box on a piece of paper so there really isnt a transition so-to-speak. I was surprised how similar it felt playing pro events compared to amateur events. Its not like other sports where you are directly playing against the opposition and have to adjust your game accordingly. In golf, youre playing against the golf course really, so even though the competition is tougher, you really dont have to adjust much.

G4G: How big a switch is it mentally from the amateur/pro ranks?

JL: I really dont think theres too much of a switch other than small mistakes cost you more in the pros. If youre a top amateur you can usually get away with little errors or mental mistakes and still end up on top. If you do that at the pro rank it will mean getting lapped by the rest of the field.

G4G: I always hear top amateurs talk about the need to be more consistent in the pros “ and I recall hearing you say that when you turned pro. Nick Taylor said that exactly to me last week. What does consistency mean at the pro level? Just taking out the bad holes? Putting rough patches aside quickly?

JL: If youre consistently good, then yes, its definitely a positive attribute to have; however, the more I played professional golf, the more I realized that playing exceptionally well for a short stretch of tournaments and poor in others makes more sense financially. Finished 20th place each and every week doesnt get you very far, but a 1st, 2nd, and 10 missed cuts will oddly do a lot more for you. I guess its just important to capitalize on those tournaments when you are feeling it.

G4G:  How important is the other factors in the switch “ agents, trainers, coaches, etc. Who should one turn to for advice?

JL:  I believe its most important to understand yourself. You have to know who you are at the deepest level so you know where to turn when you need help. Depending on the individual, it can be a family member, friend, agent, manager, coach, or maybe just themselves. You have to be true to yourself and not do something just because somebody told you.

 James Lepp now runs Kikkor Golf.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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