2019 Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open presented by Prodiscus: FPO Final Round Recap - What good's a playoff when it's tied after 12?Read Now
It might not have been snowing but the 2019 Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open presented by Prodiscus threw it's own special recipe of conditions at the top pros battled it out in today’s final round. IT rained for most of the round and wind was the new normal, neither of which kept Paige Pierce from taking home a third consecutive win here in Jonesboro, AR. Forget about keeping it 100, Pierce kept it 1000, or 1008 to be specific when it comes to the final round rating. Decided on the 18th green, Catrina Allen took second, by a few throws over Henna Blumroos who took third by a few as well over Rebecca Cox’s fourth. The lead card may have separated themselves after round two, but it wasn’t the only battleground during this final round. Most pros will give you the same advice when it comes to thinking about comparing your scores to someone else's – play your game…until the last few holes, then, and only then, can you start thinking about a strategy in response to how things are going. But what about when you're tied heading into the last six holes of the tournament? Is that too early to consider it?
Well, with six to play Pierce took the lead with the birdie on 12 to maintain her bogey-free round headed into the final stretch. Both Pierce and Allen carded par on 13 before they stepped up to what Pierce thinks should be a par 3 but has been listed as a par 4. I doubt she would change her tune after today, but that doesn't make the moment any less dramatic. Pierce was hungry for a crush and put plenty on her BioFuzion Defender but caught some absurdly bad luck when she struck an OB stake on the far side of the OB stream and kicked directly back. She successfully lays up for par but that made it easy for Catrina to take the birdie. See the opportunity? Capitalize. As Val Jenkins was quick to remind us “it’s a game of inches”. Back to a tie. Let’s go.
On hole 15, Catrina rides that momentum to a park job – pressure on Pierce, whose OB drive the hole before put her at the back of the box. You don’t get to be the highest rated player in the world by cracking under the pressure though. Anything you can do I can do…too. Paige Pierce parks it. Like a quick and smooth single maneuver parallel parking job, they both dropped in their birdies and turned to hole 16 only to find two full cards waiting before they could play. In today’s conditions waiting can be a disaster. It's one thing if it's cold. It's one thing if it's wet. It's a-whole-nother thing when you’re facing both at once.
After the wait, players had to get back in the groove. Allen’s shot was a solid forehand, but certainly not perfect. On the other hand, Paige Pierce encountered tragedy when her flick just didn’t quite click. A short flight, resulting in a mediocre roll, is not what you are looking for when the competition is this tight. It’s not the drive that actually makes hole 16 the hardest hole on the course today but the up-shot across the water into a raging headwind. Paige was able to lay up and leave herself a look at par while Catrina had a chance at birdie. Catrina’s second shot came out of her hand moving right across the +300 ft water carry for just too long before catching it’s fade and getting acquainted with the defensive player of the day – the tree just short and right of 16’s basket. It caught Catrina's approach and Paige's too. With that, both players and Rebecca (3/4 of the lead card) headed to the drop zone. Catrina throwing four and Paige throwing five. Catrina left herself a tester of a putt while Paige put it a good bit closer. Catrina's missed putt left the pressure on Paige to make her double bogey just to keep the two tied. Cashed. Two to go – tie game.
Neither of our leader’s played 16, the hardest hole of the day, great but you know who did? Vanessa Van Dyken and Jessica Weese, the only two birdies on the day, who found themselves in a battle for fifth on the chase card. They stepped up to 18’s tee after Vanessa had spent most of the round struggling to score. Jessica Weese’s round looked a little different. She shot a roller coaster of a -3 with 8 birdies and 5 bogeys. They both bogeyed 17 and proceeded to 18, the third hardest hole of the day. Unlike other ties today, the two would end up finishing 18 with textbook pars and tied for fifth.
Back on the lead card, it was 16 that all but made concrete Henna's third-place finish and Rebecca's fourth. All four players took marginally different approaches to exactly the same result – par. They had watched the chase card play out on 17 and they would do the same on 18. 17 drew bids at birdies that turned into pars and the strolled on to their last wait of the day.
After exchanging the lead a handful of times Paige Pierce and Catrina Allen, the two highest rated players in the world, are tied on the tee of the final hole. Shivers. Straight shivers. This is why we watch. Catrina had the right to drive before Paige going off her birdie back on 14 (the last hole the two leaders didn’t tie). She took the hyzer route to a decent result. Paige Pierce pumped a perfect smash right up the middle in response. Catrina’s lie turned out to be wet but casual. There’s just been that much rain. When this much is on the line though you step right into the newly formed stream for your patent pending and rip a field drive up the hill. Paige’s drive gave her a moonshot of a chance at eagle but after seeing Catrina’s second shot Paige made the veteran play for birdie – leaving the pressure on Catrina.
Leaving her second shot behind a healthy tree on the right side of the fairway, Catrina stepped out for a second consecutive patent pending shot. She got a great snap on the throw, pushing it a little low but it hovered just above the ground and slid up to a meaty putt for birdie. Having thrown a putter on her second shot Paige went back to the well for more and drew up a great flip-to-flat approach to about 20 feet from the basket. Catrina stepped up to an almost 50-foot putt but out of her hand, she knew it wasn't enough – leaving it high and left. Pierce approached her lie and with no time and all sank the winning putt. And just like that, the round was over and I could feel my own blood pressure finally start to come back to a healthy balance. I can only imagine how tense that could have felt to play it.
Pierce admitted it in the post-round interview – her putting held her back from taking her score even lower – but she knows she knows how to throw a disc. Paige led the entire field in Fairways Hit, Circle 1, and Circle 2 in regulation. She shot the hot round in the first and last round making round 2 nothing but a stumble on her way to a last hole win over Catrina Allen, the player she has battled more than any other. Catrina's story is all but the same as Paige's - right up to the eighteenth hole. By no means should her showing this weekend be considered a loss. There’s not another player who Parked it more often than her. Can you even imagine what it would feel like to get a drop-in birdie one out of every four holes? Let alone all the birdies she made from further this weekend.
Today’s battle for first may have stolen the show but let’s not forget about Henna Blomroos or Rebecca Cox too quickly. It was only the dwindling of opportunities in the final round that kept Henna her from a chance to chase down the leaders. If she can clean up some of the bigger numbers she carded today this weekend would look a lot different for everyone. I'm sure her sponsors are more than stoked about her Third-place finish at their title event. Rebecca really showed up this weekend too, she tied Catrina Allen for first in birdies at a total 46%. That’s almost half of the holes! And it was only round three, in the coldest and toughest conditions the field faced, that kept Rebecca out of the running too. As was true for the rest of the lead card, she started the round ahead of Pierce but in a collection of rounds that includes -5 and a bogey-free 1000 rated -8, a +4 is just not like the others. No doubt about it, both of these players are on their way to being staples at the top of the leaderboard.
Before we wrap up this final round recap I wanted to put in a mention of some incredible young players this weekend that didn’t quite make it to the top but just need to be mentioned. Hailey King and Cynthia Ricciotti, both still in high school, registered for this event and really followed through. Of the 54 holes played this weekend King birdied 9 and Ricciotti birdied 10. This course is really long and they both threw it well. King was even the second best putter at the event, with 79% of her Circle 1X Putts made. King and Ricciotti will no doubt improve on their T14th and T17th place finishes in the years to come and likely are early signs of the next generation of women’s disc golf. And just like that, another stop of the 2019 DGPT has come to a close as Paige Pierce earns herself a hat trick of consecutive wins and her first 2019 DGPT win at the Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open presented by Prodiscus. We’re back in just a couple of weeks from the West Coast as we kick off the Second Annual San Francisco Open presented by Innova Champion Discs. Congrats Paige! See you back in the West!
This article written by Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.
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