Huskies React to Lepp's 63
June 4, 2005
Owings Mills, MD - When Husky junior James Lepp fired a 7-under 63 to force a playoff and eventually win the NCAA Championship, his UW teammates were impressed, but they said they've seen that type of golf out of him before.
For Lepp, it was a welcome breakthrough after, in his opinion, a disappointing season.
Lepp led Washington with a 71.74 stroke average during the season and lowered that to 71.44 thanks to shooting 4-under 276 at the NCAAs. He set the school 54-hole tournament scoring record with an 18-under score of 198 at the Waikoloa Intercollegiate in February. He compiled five top-10 finishes, but only claimed one win, a first-place tie with Pepperdine's Michael Putnam at Oregon's Duck Invitational.
During the fall Lepp failed to break par in three tournaments and during the season he recorded three finishes that were 40th place or higher.
Lepp transferred to Washington after the 2003 season and was forced to redshirt the 2004 season when Illinois would not grant him an unconditional release. The Big Ten player of the year as a sophomore in 2003, Lepp was 13th at the NCAAs as a freshman and was a second-team All-American as a sophomore.
'I would have liked to have played last year,' Lepp said. 'We had some really good seniors, like Brock Mackenzie, and they finished sixth at the NCAAs. I think we could have contended for the title. It would have been nice to play with some of those guys.'
Lepp's impressive showing at the NCAAs did not surprise fourth-year coach Matt Thurmond or his Husky teammates. Despite a sub par year, they knew from playing with the two-time Canadian Amateur Player of the Year that he was capable of posting a low number if he got hot.
'He's been frustrated at times this year, but he has worked really hard,' Thurmond said. 'He really felt this course set up well for him.'
'For James to come out here and shoot 63, he was not scared to back down on a really hard golf course during the final round of nationals,' said sophomore Erik Olson. 'I wouldn't go as far as to say that it was as impressive as Johnny Miller's 63 at the Open, but it was amazing. To shoot 63 on this golf course. When the U.S. Senior Open was here, no one came close to shooting 63. I cannot put it in words how impressive that was.'
Sophomore teammate Alex Prugh said the Huskies have coined a term for when Lepp gets hot during a round.
'He said he basically went 'Lepp' on us,' Prugh said. 'He did what he can do. He does that every once in a while. He just goes and makes birdie after birdie and makes it look easy.'
'When something clicks in him he can just go off,' added freshman Joe Panzeri. 'He's just that type of a player. If he is feeling good, then watch out. He can light it up. He's one of the best players in the country and I'm proud to be one of his teammates.
Lepp said he set his sites on the individual title after he made his run of four consecutive birdies.
'I knew I had to have a really good round today to have a shot at it,' he said. 'I felt really good at the start of the round. I felt good with my swing and the way the shots were going. I made some solid up and downs throughout the round and held it together. I got it going with some birdies in the middle of the round and knew I was in contention. I was concerned about the team because we were going for third, but I was also going out trying to win the tournament.'
Thurmond hopes Lepp's title will have a long-term impact on aspiring Northwest golfers.
'This is a huge honor,' Thurmond said. 'Everybody in the golf world knows who the NCAA Champion is. For it to be a kid from the University of Washington, who really, really wanted to come to school here, that means a lot. Hopefully all of the young golfers in the Pacific Northwest, who are thinking about where they will go to school, will take note. They may choose to go elsewhere, but it will not be because there is a better program or better University to attend. It is hard to argue with what we've done the past few years.'
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