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Decade on Display: Jenkins Comes Back For Fourth World Title

Valarie Jenkins' fourth PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championship title was marked by a commanding, steady hand. Photo: John Whinery

The 2010s saw exponential growth for both disc golf and the PDGA. We’re looking back on a phenomenal 10 years in our Decade on Display series, where we reflect and reminisce about the sport’s successes both on and off the course. Keep an eye out for more through the end of 2019.

After 90 holes of disc golf around Emporia, Kansas, Valarie Jenkins’ play during the 2016 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships could best be described as a simmer -- just enough heat to stay in contention, a steadiness underpinning her tournament.

During the final nine at the Emporia Country Club, though, Jenkins brought it to a boil and cooked up an improbable fourth world championship.

It was the first PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championship I had the privilege to attend, and Jenkins, with her calm confidence, stole the show. Sure, Ricky Wysocki would go on to finally break through for his first career title later that sweltering August Saturday, but his performance at the ECC largely constituted a victory lap -- he entered the final with a five-shot cushion over Paul McBeth

Jenkins, on the other hand, entered that closing stretch trailing the two most recent PDGA World Champions, Paige Pierce and Catrina Allen, by one throw. 

She flipped that into a stunning seven-shot runaway. And it only took a few holes.

That fateful final nine started at the Club’s original first hole (now a variant of the course’s eighth), where Jenkins and Pierce pushed with pars and Allen fell to a tie with Jenkins after a bogey. Allen lost another off the pace on the second hole of the final, while Jenkins was able to tie Pierce for the lead with a birdie on hole 3.

It was the fifth hole of the final, though, that proved to be most climactic.

Jenkins was first to tee on the Emporia Country Club’s 13th, a 371-foot par 3 that features an out-of-bounds cart path lining the entire right side of the fairway. The Ohio native tossed a low line drive that skipped off the path and skittered left, well safe with a birdie look from outside the circle. 

What happened next, though, was jaw-dropping.

Pierce hammered her drive too far right, and it never was able to battle back against the breeze to come back in bounds. Allen, meanwhile, left too much hyzer on her drive and it fell quickly out of the air and also landed OB.

Both were forced to re-tee, with Allen making the correction and putting her shot near the pin. Pierce, though, left her attempt too high and it again fell out of bounds. One more tee shot, and she was finally in bounds.

Jenkins still had to wait for both of her closest competitors to approach before finally attempting to can a birdie from about 40 feet, which she missed. She didn’t need it, though, as she walked away from the hole with a four-shot lead over both Pierce and Allen with four to play.

The almost-four-time champ played the next two holes for clean pars and took that same four-throw advantage into hole 16, the penultimate hole of the final that features the ECC’s famed peninsula green. Played at a shorter 275-feet for the Open Women’s field, it would have been easy for Jenkins to play a lay-up to the right-side bailout zone and pitch up for another easy par to walk in her title.

But where’s the fun in that?

Instead, Jenkins ran for the island and landed it safely, an authoritative stamp on a timeless victory.

I can still hear the eruption of the gallery. I can still feel the chills.