Amateur Suprising Leader


VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- James Lepp of Abbotsford, BC, will look to become the first amateur to win a Canadian Tour event in seven years when he carries the lead into Sundays final round of the Greater Vancouver Classic.
Sitting with four others atop the leaderboard as the day began, the 19-year-old amateur star posted a 6-under 66 for a 54-hole total of 14-under 202, two shots in front of rookie Jesse Hibler. Mark Johnson is in the third spot, three shots back, while Nathan Fritz of is at 10-under 206.
At one point Saturday, Josh Habig, who was at least the co-leader through the first two rounds, was at 13-under, one shot in front of Lepp, before the wheels came off. Habig, a Tour rookie, triple-bogeyed the par-4 seventh and followed it up with back-to-back bogeys, costing him five shots in a three-hole span. Lepp made the turn at 4-under for the day and, except for a brief spell when he was tied with Johnson, stayed in front of the pack the rest of the way in. Lepp was able to add a little more distance between himself and Hibler with a 15-foot birdie on 17.
It was funny, I didnt feel nervous at all, said Lepp. Its good for me to get used to pressure situations like them, with people and cameras around. Playing practice rounds with the pros at the Bell Canadian Open (last year), I was nervous, saying to myself,Just dont chunk it. But when I got into tournament rounds, I was fine.
For the second time in as many days, Hibler took it deep at the 7000-yard Swan-e-set Bay layout. Heading into Fridays second round, Hibler was at 2-over and in danger of missing the cut before carding a course record-tying 8-under 64. On Saturday, he came in with a 66, making up 14 shots in two days.
I never really thought about the leaderboard, I was just giving it my all every shot and making some clutch putts when I needed to, said Hibler, who hasnt made a bogey since Thursday. Tomorrow will be a good learning experience for me. It will be new, and lets see how I react.
The last amateur to win a Tour title was Rob McMillan, who won the 1996 Xerox Manitoba Open in his hometown of Winnipeg. Lepp, the two-time B.C. amateur champion will be looking to change that Sunday afternoon a few kilometres from his hometown. Lepp created headlines in the Vancouver media Thursday when he announced he would be leaving Illinois for the University of Washington this fall. When asked if a victory here would accelerate his plans to turn pro, Lepp downplayed the theory.
Thats not going to change anything. I am going to finish school. Im not going to get sucked into the whole pro thing just yet. This has been a good experience and hopefully I can finish it off Sunday.
Billy Noon of Maple Ridge, BC made the biggest charge on moving day, leaping from 37th to fifth with a 7-under 65. The Swan-e-set employee won a five-man showdown between course employees to earn a spot in the starting field, and literally turned professional as he sat down to register for the tournament early in the week.
I had hoped to get a few extra days to decide if I wanted to go pro or not, but I had to tell them on the spot, said the 22-year-old Junior teacher. This is pretty exciting, I never thought I would be where I am. I just wanted to make the cut, and now I have a shot to win it.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Greater Vancouver Classic
  • Greater Vancouver Classic Leaderboard