Pierce led wire-to-wire; Allen, Tattar stay hot
March 28, 2022 by Charlie Eisenhood in News, Recap with comments
At this time last year, Paige Pierce was rated 996, just a few strong rounds away from becoming the first female player to ever reach the 1000-rated mark. But 5th and 11th place finishes at WACO and Texas States, respectively, torpedoed her chances at reaching a long-time career goal in the April 2021 ratings update. A few weeks later, Pierce took a weeks-long vacation in Hawaii before returning to win four straight Elite Series events.
Fast forward a year, and Paige Pierce comes away from Texas States the tournament champion in her home state with a 17-under par, four strokes ahead of Kristin Tattar and Catrina Allen in second place. It was her first win at the event since 2014.
“I’m not out here playing because I have to,” she said in an emotional post-round interview. “It means the world to me to be out here…So to execute when it comes down to it, to push past what everybody’s saying: I’m the only voice that matters. And so I need to love myself, I need to be confident in myself. And, you know, the wins will come.”
This was Pierce’s first win of the 2022 season after coming up just short at the Las Vegas Challenge a month ago. She led wire-to-wire, opening up a five stroke lead through two rounds. She had to grit out an up-and-down final round performance, though, to close out the win.
Through four holes, her lead over Kristin Tattar was up to six strokes. But two-shot swings on holes 5 (a double bogey for Pierce, a par for Tattar) and 7 (a bogey for Pierce, a birdie for Tattar) cut her lead down to three strokes. Then, Pierce’s birdie putt on hole 10 got a brutal spitout and Tattar picked up another stroke. Two holes later, Pierce’s drive didn’t flip enough and ended up in the bramble on the left side of the fairway. Her punch out to the green left her putting from about 40 feet. She missed the par putt and carded a bogey as Tattar got the birdie to tie it up.
On hole 13, Tattar gave the two strokes right back after finding the pine tree on the left side of the gap with her tee shot as Pierce got to the top of the hill past the gap. Although Tattar would get the deficit back down to one after eagling on hole 17, her drive on the 18th stayed out of bounds, Pierce’s took a flare skip off the OB road back in bounds, and it was all formalities from there.
“I had a great weekend. I don’t care about spitouts; I don’t care about OBs,” said Pierce. “Overall, when you put it together, that’s what gets your blood pumping. I had a great weekend.”
This is Pierce’s 62nd career Elite Series victory and her 24th Disc Golf Pro Tour win.
Tattar, Allen Stay Podium-Perfect
Kristin Tattar and Catrina Allen both separated from the rest of the field for a share of second place at 13-under par. Neither player has missed the top three at a tournament yet this season.
Both players played even with Pierce for the final two rounds, but Pierce’s superb 1020-rated 9-under in round one gave her enough cushion to close out the victory of them.
Allen has two wins so far this season, a one-stroke victory over Pierce at the season opener in Las Vegas and a Silver Series victory at last weekend’s Open at Belton. Tattar hasn’t taken home a trophy yet this season but has been consistently in the hunt for the win at every event so far.
Statistically, very little has separated the three top players to begin the season:
Valerie Mandujano Continues to Impress
The Waco Annual Charity Open champion, Valerie Mandujano, finished in solo 4th place at Texas States. She has now finished in the top five at four straight Elite Series events dating back to last season (five, if you count the Throw Pink Women’s Disc Golf Championships, a prestigious A-Tier played at Winthrop alongside USDGC). She hasn’t missed the top five at any tournament since July 2021, when she finished 16th at the Discraft Great Lakes Open.
Unsurprisingly, her statistical profile has improved across the board. She is putting 7 percentage points better from both Circle 1 and Circle 2 so far this season (75%/23%) compared to 2021 (68%/16%). She’s finding more greens in regulation. She’s leading the tour in scramble percentage.
She didn’t match the top three players at Texas States in giving herself birdie opportunities, leaving her off the pace to contend for a win, but she has so far proven to be one of the breakout stars of the 2022 season.
- Kona Panis earned her first top 10 finish of the season. Although her putting was still a weak point, her performance off the tee was much improved.
- It was another strong tournament for Kat Mertsch, who’s finished inside the top 10 at each of the three Elite Series events this season.
- For the second tournament in a row, Eveliina Salonen led the field in strokes gained from tee-to-green but finished dead last in strokes gained from putting. She finished 27th after missing 30 Circle 1 putts for the weekend.