Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff--Skins--James Lepp tees off on the opening hole of the Skins Game at the Red Deer Golf and Country Club on Tuesday.

Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff--Skins--James Lepp tees off on the opening hole of the Skins Game at the Red Deer Golf and Country Club on Tuesday.

Lepp takes skins game with a big putt

His first visit to the Red Deer Golf and Country Club was a successful one. And yet, RDG&CC Skins Game winner James Lepp admitted he didn’t exactly shoot lights out during the nine-hole event Tuesday.

His first visit to the Red Deer Golf and Country Club was a successful one.

And yet, RDG&CC Skins Game winner James Lepp admitted he didn’t exactly shoot lights out during the nine-hole event Tuesday.

“I did not play well, it just takes good timing to win in a format like this,” he said, after his 16-foot birdie putt on the eighth green earned him a cheque for $12,000.

“You need to have one good hole when the others guys don’t, and the timing was right for me. I made my putt and no one else made a birdie. I didn’t play better than really anybody else. You just need that one good hole in this format and I was fortunate enough to have that happen to me.”

Host pro Roy Hide earned $200 for his drive of 308 yards on the opening hole and then canned a nine-foot putt for birdie to take the first skin of $1,500.

But from there, it was carryover after carryover for the five man-field — also including Canadian Professional Tour players James Love, Steven Lecuyer and Mike Mezei — until Lepp drained his big-money putt on No. 8.

“Two guys putted before me on a very similar line and it was an easy putt,” said Lepp. “It was a downhill, left-centre putt and it just tracked perfectly.

“It’s a nine-hole skins game for fun. I probably shot even par today, I didn’t play that great at all, I just made a putt at the right time.”

Lepp turned pro in 2006 and is a two-time winner on the Canadian Tour, including once as an amateur. He was runner-up on the Golf Channel’s The Big Break Greenbrier and in 2005 became the first Canadian to win the NCAA individual championship.

He’s also the co-founder of Kikkor Golf, a golf shoe and apparel company that soaks up much of his time. As a result, he will play a limited number of events on the tour this year, including the Players Cup at Winnipeg July 18-21.

“That’s the only event I have scheduled for now. I’ll play in that one for sure and then I might get into some of the events out east,” he said.

The 2013 RDG&CC Skins Game champion said it’s almost certain he’ll return next year to defend the title.

“This is a great event, a lot of fun on a fun course,” he said. “I live in Abbotsford and that’s only an hour flight to Calgary and then it’s just a little jump to get up here. I see no reason not to come back next year.”

Love, a Calgary native and winner of the 2009 Canada Pro Tour championship, claimed the final skin of $2,000 in a pitch-off with Lecuyer on the ninth hole, landing his shot a mere 52 inches from the pin. The two-time member of the Canadian national amateur team also paired with Lethbridge product Mezei to beat Lepp and Lecuyer in the team event, which featured a purse of $500.

Lecuyer, a native of Grimshaw who made seven of eights cuts on the Canadian Tour last year and won the Alberta Amateur in 2010, pocketed $200 for his long drive of 312 yards on the par-five sixth hole and also picked up $200 for being closest to the pin with his tee shot on the par-three fifth.