Pierce and Koling - 2014 Maple Hill Open Champs
After the fourth long and exhausting day of competition at the Maple Hill Open, two players emerged as first time winners of this prestigious event: Paige Pierce #29190 and Jeremy Koling #33705. Pierce is no stranger to victory on the 2014 PDGA National Tour. She has now won four out of the five NT events this year, giving her a significant advantage in the overall points standings for the series. Koling isn't new to victory either but this is arguably the biggest win of his professional career.
Pierce started the final round with a five stroke cushion over Catrina Allen #44814 with defending champ Val Jenkins #17495 and Des Reading #15863 lurking even rather behind. The Pierce vs. Allen battle is a familiar one this year but Pierce managed to maintain her lead throughout the entire round. After conservatively playing the 18th hole and tapping in for par, she would be crowned the Open Women winner, finishing three ahead Allen and seven ahead of Jenkins. Jenkins' first round of the tournament was the only round under par for any woman all weekend on the Maple Hill Gold Course and she would finish the final round with the best score as well. It was the middle rounds that were her downfall, a story shared by many competitors due to the extreme weather during the second and third rounds.
The Open division lead card included Jeremy Koling #33705, Ricky Wysocki #38008, Joe Rovere #30306, and Cameron Colglazier #47407. The scores between the lead and chase card were extremely close all day long, with the main battle fought by the leader after 54 holes Koling, and Saturday's hot round shooter Wysocki. Wysocki came out strong, carding five birdies in a row and another on the eighth hole. By this point, Wysocki had already put himself in the lead by a stroke over Koling. When he nailed a 230' downhill field ace to save par on the ninth hole and maintain his lead over Koling, it seemed that he had all the momentum he would need to take home the victory on the back nine. It was without a doubt one of the loudest gallery cheers we've heard all year, if not the loudest.
Koling didn't let it get to him and he continued to fight with full confidence to regain the lead he'd earned in the three days of grueling disc golf that led up to the final round. He quickly tied it up again carding a birdie on the 10th hole only to have it taken away from him on hole 15. They would both card the same scores on hole 16 and 17, meaning Koling would need a two-stroke swing on the 18th hole to win.
The 18th hole at Maple Hill is one of the funnest disc golf environments that you'll find anywehre. The green is an island shaped by a wall of small rocks with an opening on the front side about 20 feet wide. Hole 18 is an uphill par four, meaning a well-placed drive and perfectly paced upshot is the only way to get an easy birdie putt. Koling positioned himself perfectly off the tee and would have to play his upshot before Wysocki as the hundreds of people crowded around the green stood and waited for the throws to come in. They erupted as they saw Koling's forehand skip onto the island green safely, but turned silent just as quickly as they waited for Wysokci to follow. What would happen with Wysocki's throw can be seen in the video below.
Wysocki's disc came in a bit too high and with a bit too much power. The rate and angle at which it hit the rock wall meant it was either going to spike into the green and settle for an easy birdie, or stand up on an edge, and roll away. As the disc rolled out of bounds, Koling and everyone else watching knew that Wysocki would need to make an extremely difficult turnover putt from 60 feet to save par. Wyocki did his best but he missed.
The gallery was on their feet as Koling tapped in to win his first every National Tour. Very few times have we seen a player so excited to win. He was absolutely elated, deservedly. He took down the best players in the world on one of the most difficult courses in the world, playing four days of amazing golf in the heat of day one, the continuous downpour of day 2, the guting winds of days three and four.
A huge thank you goes out to staff, volunteers, SmashBoxxTV, McFlySoHigh Video, and everyone else involved in making the 2014 Maple Hill Open one of the most fun and most exciting tournaments of the year. Congratulations once again to Jeremy Koling and Paige Pierce for their amazing victories!
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