Paige Pierce Wins Worlds!!!
photo credit ©2011 Brian Akerson
Disc Golf World Championships: Paige Pierce upends Santa Cruz’s Valarie Jenkins to win women’s title
WATSONVILLE — Immediately after calling her women’s open division win in the Pro Disc Golf World Championships “something I’ve always dreamed of,” Paige Pierce expressed gratitude that she was playing at Pinto Lake Disc Golf Course here rather than in her hometown of Plano, Texas, where temperatures hovered around 110 degrees all week.
For runner-up Valerie Jenkins of Capitola, though, both the latter half of Saturday’s foggy semifinal round and all of the sunny final must have felt sweltering as Pierce cranked up the heat.
Pierce, 20, trailed Jenkins by as many as five strokes in the semifinal, but clawed back to tie Jenkins for the lead heading into the four-player, nine-hole final. Pierce then used consistent and conservative play to take the lead and hammer out a five-day score of 13-over-par 445 for the world title and the $2,000 prize.
Jenkins finished with a 16-over 448 after playing on four courses around Santa Cruz and Monterey counties and collected $1,350. Liz Lopez of San Antonio, Texas, took third at 30 over, edging last year’s world champion Sarah Stanhope of Greenville, S.C., by one throw.
“At this point, I’m a little disappointed,” said Jenkins, who lost to Pierce by a single stroke at the Memorial Championship in Arizona in March. “But it’s cool that it was a battle. I’ve always won by multiple strokes. It was nice to have the competition.”
Midway through the semifinals, Jenkins appeared well on her way to winning
— indeed by multiple strokes — the first world championship held in her backyard. She started the day up two strokes, then extended that to five as Pierce, who won the Masters Cup at DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course in May, “airballed” multiple putts. Pierce said that in a particularly painful four-hole stretch, she lost four strokes to Jenkins.”From there, it was a battle,” Pierce said.
Pierce sped up her putts to mimic her practice throws, which she said she was consistently making, and began gaining ground. On one crucial hole about midway through the round, she birdied and Jenkins bogeyed. Just like that, momentum shifted.
“In the final, she had that focus, and she took control,” said Lopez, a DisCraft teammate of Pierce’s. “I think the ball was in her court and Val was chasing her. I don’t think that Val expected Paige to be right there.”
Getting caught up in a bit of controversy didn’t help Jenkins any.
All four women threw for par on the first playoff hole. On the “B” hole, Jenkins’ tee shot crossed into an out-of-bounds area, then hit a post and bounced inbounds, about 20 feet from the pin.
The rest of the group thought the post was out of bounds, meaning Jenkins would have to throw from where the disc first crossed the boundary line — about 80 feet behind where it landed — and also take a penalty stroke.
After a few contentious minutes, in which the players called for an official ruling and conferred with some of the several hundred spectators following the group, the post and the disc were deemed in play. All Jenkins needed to do was make a 20-foot shot to save par and maintain her tie.
She missed it, though, taking a bogey. Then Pierce went birdie. In an instant, two shots separated the leaders.
“If I would have made that putt,” Jenkins said, “I would have had more confidence. But I still had confidence. It was only the second hole.”
Jenkins couldn’t close the gap over the final seven holes , and Pierce didn’t offer any opportunities. Even on the technically difficult dogleg final hole — the hole that cost Stanhope third place after her second shot hit a tree — Pierce played conservatively and perfectly. While Jenkins threw her driver on her third shot on the par-4 18th hole, then watched it soar over the pin and bend about 20 yards to the left, Pierce threw her putter and laid it up about five feet below the basket. Jenkins’ attempt at par went wide, and Pierce easily sunk hers while the crowd circled around her to celebrate.
“I feel like this is a dream,” said Pierce, her freckled face looking like it had barely broken a sweat. “Everything I wanted came true.”