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Pierce Pulls Off Another Double-Digit Win


Paige Pierce walked in another victory at the Jonesboro Open. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen / DGPT

Paige Pierce took a six-shot lead into a frigid Sunday morning final at the Jonesboro Open, and it’s safe to say that, despite slightly higher temperatures than a snowy Saturday round, her scorecard heated up before she did.

Three holes were all Pierce required to extend her lead to double digits, and that’s where it remained when she tapped in her final putt and was crowned champion for the second year in a row. Her 10-under par 188 total kept her 10 strokes clear of Madison Walker, who tossed a 2-under par final round to move into a second-place tie with Jennifer Allen at an even-par 198. Sarah Hokom and Catrina Allen both went over par on the lead card to slip to fourth and fifth place, respectively, with 1-over par and 6-over par totals.

Pierce is now undefeated in 2018 and has won 26 of 32 events she has played in the Open Women’s division since the beginning of 2017. The tournament marked her second double-digit victory of the season, and her average margin of victory in Elite Series events is 6.25 strokes.

“I have confidence in myself as a player, so it’s hard to say I’m surprised,” Pierce said. “But being undefeated is more than I expected.”

Her coronation as Jonesboro’s top women’s player was never in doubt. Pierce opened the final with three consecutive birdies, her best run of scoring on the first three holes for the event – even better than her course record-setting 12-under showing from Friday. But she said she wasn’t aiming to come out and pull away for fear of a chasing field. Instead, her motivation came from within.

“Sometimes those thoughts creep into my head, like, ‘I’ve gotta play good or someone can catch me.’ I didn’t have those thoughts at all,” Pierce said. “…For me, I just want to play a good round and raise my rating and reach my longer-term goals. It was more important for myself, personally, that I could get another good round.”

Though she carded a pair of bogeys on the front nine, she recovered with a tap-in birdie on the par 5, 715-foot 9th and another pair under par on holes 12 and 14. She also managed to land in circle 2 in regulation on 78 percent of her opportunities, but an 0-for-8 showing on circle 2 putts let on that she was deviating from her usual “no laying up” philosophy.

“I definitely was laying up today, actually,” Pierce admitted. “And a couple times I told [caddie] Tina [Stanaitis], ‘Alright, I’m not gonna lay up,’ or ‘Talk me out of going for this.’

“The putter doesn’t come out as precisely [in the cold],” Pierce continued “…It just made me three-putt one too many times [Saturday] and I didn’t want to deal with that at all today.”

Aggressive putting, on the other hand, was what kept Walker in the mix. She led the field with a 91 percent conversion rate in circle 1, with eight putts throughout the event coming from just inside circle’s edge. She sprinkled in a 40-footer for good measure to open play with a birdie on Sunday but said her long-range connections still need work.

“Up until this weekend I’ve had this invisible wall at circle 1. Circle 2 I haven’t been able to hit anything,” Walker said. “…So it was cool to hit a couple outside. I basically don’t think we have an excuse to miss in circle 1, so I made it my goal to do that.”

More importantly, though, Walker’s confidence is booming. She missed most of last season with an elbow injury but has already logged four wins in 2018, and this runner-up finish matches her career high at an elite event, which she set back in 2016 at the United States Women’s Disc Golf Championship.

“I’ve been just kinda watching from afar for awhile, so it’s nice to get back in there and see what I can do,” Walker said. “It’s a little bit of a different field from when I was playing before, too…The last year I felt like I could be a lot more competitive with this field, so I’m happy to get out there and actually do it and prove myself.”

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Madison Walker logged a 977-rated final round to move into a tie for second place. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen / DGPT

Pierce, meanwhile, was happy to see her former touring partner getting back up to speed.

“Traveling with [Walker] last year was pretty hard,” Pierce said. “It was hard to see how upset she was every day just having to watch, and she was feeling like her game was at the best it had been. It’s awesome to see that she has that confidence. She already had it – it didn’t go anywhere during that year off – and hopefully she continues with it and continues to push herself. I think she has a lot more than what we’ve seen so far.”

Further down the leaderboard, Rebecca Cox and Christina Linthicum each moved up one slot to finish in sixth and seventh place, respectively, while Lisa Fajkus recovered from a 15-over par round on Saturday with a 3-over par finish to move into a 10th place tie with Ellen Widboom.

Though there aren’t any premier events until the PDGA National Tour ramps up again with the Dynamic Discs Glass Blown Open later this month, Pierce has no plans to slow down her pace: She’s playing the Vintage Open in Russellville, Arkansas, this weekend before heading back to her home state in search of her fifth straight Texas Women’s Disc Golf Championship title.

Comments

I enjoy disc golf whether it is men or women playing, but Paige's win highlights one of the things that is wrong with women's pro disc golf. It can be really boring to watch when only one or two players have such a huge distance advantage over the rest of the field.

Women's golf would be much more exciting if the holes were shortened enough the 75+ percent of the field can reach par 3 holes. Par 4 holes should be barely reachable or not reachable in one drive by the big arms. There should also be risk designed into pin positions if big arms try to throw for eagles.

Robust competition is exciting and breeds fans that will watch coverage.

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