Pierce Shoots Hot Third Round, Allen Retains Lead

Jenkins stays in the mix, while Hokom struggles

Paige Pierce drives at PDGA Pro Worlds. Photo: Daniel George -- UltiPhotos.com
Paige Pierce drives at PDGA Pro Worlds. Photo: Daniel George, Dynamic Discs

EMPORIA, Kan. — Catrina Allen stepped to the tee on Hole 18 having watched her three stroke lead evaporate in the blistering 97 degree heat in Emporia. After an erratic front nine, Paige Pierce locked in through the back nine and carded four birdies to pull even with Allen at 7-under on Hole 17. It was looking like a dream round for Pierce.

But Pierce’s tee shot on 18 was too tight to the trees at the Jones East course. She was forced to lay up, and then had a poor approach shot, leaving her with a long putt to save par. She missed it and recorded a bogey 5. Allen’s tee shot was perfect and she made quick work of her third birdie of the round. Just like that, she was back in front at 8-under par 173 for the week, two strokes ahead of Pierce’s 6-under par 175.

“Not exactly what I wanted, but it moved me up a little bit and I’m still in it,” Pierce said.

That she was less than thrilled after posting the day’s hot round illustrates her frustration after Hole 18. She had eight birdies Thursday, far and away the highest total in FPO play (Valerie Jenkins was second with four.) She had some tremendous shots, including perfect drives on 10 and 11 to set up easy birdie twos.  But she also had five bogeys to Allen’s one set up by some disappointing moments, including a chain out on Hole 6 and a poor out-of-bounds approach shot on 9.

“I did good on birdies but I had a little bit too many mistakes on the par 4s,” Pierce said.

Where Pierce was up and down, Allen was consistent. She was the only player on the lead card to avoid going OB in the round. She was driving well off the tee, taking advantage of the open layout to put her signature power behind shots.

Despite her clean play from the tee pad, she couldn’t build her lead. Multiple times during the round, she had a chance to pick up a stroke on Pierce, but missed the birdie putt she needed.

“If the putts start dropping, I know that I’ll be fine,” Allen said.

Overall, she said she felt good about the way she played the course and that she just has to be patient.

“It could be worse,” she said. “I don’t always putt that bad.”

Halfway through the round, it seemed like it might become a two-woman race before the start of the fourth round on Friday: Sarah Hokom and Valarie Jenkins, the other members of the lead card, had scuffled through the first seven holes and were both sitting at +4 for the round. They were five and seven strokes back of Allen, respectively.

But Jenkins finally found a rhythm off the tee and was the best player the rest of the way, recording five birdies and no bogeys to get back within striking distance at 3-under par for the week.

Hokom, however, could never get back on track. She took double bogeys at 6 and 9 and dropped to 10 back of the leader. Nothing was going her way: She couldn’t keep her tee shots on target and putts seemed to just miss.

The lead card remains the same tomorrow as the FPO returns to Jones East for another round. Pierce hopes to continue to put pressure on Allen with another birdie-filled round. Allen is trying to focus on making her shots.

“Of course I have to know that [Pierce] is my biggest competition for the week and that she’s not going to just fall over,” said Allen. “But I just kept telling myself, ‘It’s a long week.’ [I’m] just continuing to stick to my game plan.”

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