Is this just the new normal? Paige Bjerkaas and Catrina Allen battling it out for first? If yes, great, because this is fantastic. The whole FPO field here at the 2019 Waco Annual Charity Open started the second round carding a lot more birdies and a lot fewer bogeys. Scores were reaching as low as 6 under par at one point. Then they got out of the forest and the wind got the best of just about everyone, whether they were at the top of the pack or the bottom. Enough of the broad strokes, let’s get into the story.
In round one, Paige Bjerkaas carded eight birdies, but also took three bogeys and a single double bogey, resulting in her 3 under par tie for the lead with Catrina Allen. Bjerkaas was determined to keep those big numbers off her card today. So much so that she even laid up from the circle’s edge for par on 11 when she could have taken another throw on Allen. Her first crisis moment came on the notorious hole 15. A juiced up drive flipped over in the wind found the fence-line OB. Looking to maintain her clean card she went for the green, but unfortunately found the OB road on the left, following in the footsteps of card mate Van Dyken who also took a double OB double-bogey 6 on the hole. The game plan is definitely working for her, as she finished the round at 4 under par. Besting yesterday’s hot round by one but not quite good enough to claim sole possession of first.
Catrina Allen was the first person to take the lead today, and she did it on the first hole. By the time the lead card made it to the tee-pad of hole 9, the first par 5, Bjerkaas now had the lead over Allen by one. But Allen decided that a second birdie on hole 9 for the weekend would be nice and picked it up with a great Circle 1 Putt from just on the edge of the rough. Not to be outdone, Bjerkaas dropped an uphill step-putt in for birdie on hole ten. And that is where Bjerkaas started to peel away as Allen stalled out for a few holes, including a bogey on the second par five of the day, hole 12. But where Bjerkaas was alternating between pars and birdies through the back, Allen started alternating between pars and bogeys in the back. When Bjerkaas finally stumbled with a double OB adventure on hole 15 Catrina seized the opportunity with a birdie for a three-throw swing. Suddenly with three left, Catrina was only one throw behind Bjerkaas. Paige took one. Catrina took one back. Catrina took another. And with that, she was 4 under and we are yet again tied at the top.
While Paige and Catrina were trading places up in first, Vanessa Van Dyken was playing a bogey-free front 9, with a couple of birdies too. A clean sheet is nice, but Vanessa was going to need some more birdies to catch the charging leaders, instead, she just kept drawing pars. Even saving one right at the turn when she missed a Circle 1 look at birdie on hole 10, leaving a long comebacker. That wasn't a problem until a double bogey on hole 12 ended her bogey-free run and erased all the work she had done on the front nine and opened the gates for more disappointing holes. A double bogey on hole 15, and a bogey on hole 16 hurt a bit, but she was able to cling to her spot on the lead card finishing the day at 2 over, so 2 over for the event and tied for third.
Not to be forgotten, the repeat and defending champion Paige Pierce was putting down a much better round than yesterday. The biggest difference? A whole lot fewer bogeys or worse. She started birdie, birdie, then bogey before finishing out a relatively unblemished 1 under par round. It could have tied or bested yesterday's hot round if it weren't for a late round OB on hole 17, carding her a double bogey six. Not one to shy away from a massive water clear, Pierce, of course, went for the eagle 2 on hole 18, but an OB penalty left her with a par and her first under par round of the event, a -1. Last year she won after clawing back a six throw deficit in the final round, but this year the scores are lower and she's 9 behind the lead right now. She may have some work to do, but at least she’ll be able to see our leaders play, as Pierce will be joining the lead card for the final round with her current tie for third with Vanessa Van Dyken.
While the rest of the lead card started their day with a healthy helping of birdies for breakfast, Sarah Hokom, who had the cleanest card in round one, quickly caught up in bogey marks with the rest of the group. As the day dragged on Hokom just couldn’t catch a break. Clipping the rough on her drives, catching the cage on her putts, she just couldn’t put a birdie on the card after a great birdie on the narrow wooded par 5, hole 9. In the last nine holes, she collected only one birdie and otherwise pars or worse for a 5 over back. +6 after a -1 makes for a rough moving day. With that, score Hokom will drop two places and fall off tomorrow’s lead card. At a total 5 over for the event, she’s 12 behind the lead and is all but out of contention now.
So that’s where we will leave things until tomorrow. Paige Bjerkaas and Catrina Allen are still tied, having bested their own hot rounds in round one by one. Swapping out Sarah Hokom from the lead card, currently tied with Vanessa Van Dyken for third is Paige Pierce, the defending champion of the event. This is gonna be good. Don’t miss any of it as our live coverage continues tomorrow at 11:00 AM EST.
This article written by Staff Editor and Writer Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.
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