When James Lepp traveled to Puerto Rico in early June, he didn’t know exactly what was in store.
The 29-year-old Abbotsford golfer knew he’d be participating in Big Break, a reality show on the Golf Channel. And he knew he’d be among a group of returning contestants – Lepp was the runner-up in the 2012 edition of the show, Big Break Greenbrier.
The twist was, Lepp and his fellow contestants were grouped into teams of three, comprised of one male and one female Big Break alumni, along with a retired NFL star.
Lepp and Meghan Hardin were placed on a team with former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien, the MVP of Super Bowl XXVI. Other NFL alumni on the show include Jerry Rice, Chris Doleman, Tim Brown, Marc Bulger and Al Del Greco.
“It was a surprise – none of the contestants had any idea,” Lepp recalled with a chuckle.
“I’ve become an NFL fan over the last decade, playing fantasy football, but when the guys started walking out, I had to start wracking my brain to try to figure out who these guys were. They were a little bit before my fantasy football time, aside from maybe Marc Bulger.
“Obviously Jerry Rice I knew. But it didn’t take long to realize what kind of football players they were, what kind of golfers they were, and what kind of people they were.”
Big Break NFL Puerto Rico, which airs on Tuesday nights at 6 p.m. Pacific time on the Golf Channel, is already two episodes into the season.
It’s a far different experience than Lepp’s initial foray into the show. Whereas the game was an individual pursuit at Greenbrier, Big Break NFL features team eliminations.
Teams are competing for $50,000 to the winning NFL player’s designated charity, along with 2014 PGA Tour and LPGA Tour tournament exemptions, cash and other prizes for the golfers.
“The first one was every man for himself, with somebody going home every episode,” Lepp said. “This time you had the team element – a lot of people riding on you, and you riding on them, a lot more variables involved.
“The first one . . . felt very serious, a little bit more nerve-wracking. Whereas this one, with prior contestants being joined by NFL players, felt a little more relaxed, a little more about the team, a little more about having some fun.”
Lepp, the 2005 NCAA individual champion, took a step back from competitive golf in 2009 in order to launch a shoe and apparel company, Kikkor Golf.
In the aftermath of Big Break Greenbrier last year, he mused about ramping up his playing schedule in 2013.
That didn’t materialize to a major extent. After being eliminated in first stage of PGA Tour Q-School last fall, Lepp ended up playing just one PGA Tour Canada event this past summer – the Players Cup in Winnipeg in mid-July, which he got into on a sponsor’s exemption.
“I was hoping to play a lot of PGA Tour Canada events this year, but Big Break conflicted with a few of those events,” he explained. “That was really my whole summer schedule.
“And to be quite honest, Kikkor has kept me very, very busy. As much as I’d like to be playing events, at the same time, the business constantly needs my attention and I don’t mind giving it.”