Walker makes her return from injury
May 20, 2017 by Alex Colucci in Recap with 0 comments
Paige Pierce is in her familiar place at the top of the leaderboard after round one of the Masters Cup, the third PDGA National Tour event of 2017.
Pierce ended the day with a 967-rated 5-over par 77. Two strokes behind Pierce is Truckee, California, pro Nicole Bradley with a 7-over par 79, while Valarie Jenkins and Jennifer Allen share third place with 8-over par 80s. Sarah Hokom is alone in fifth place after a 9-over par 81, while Catrina Allen and Madison Walker are knotted up in sixth place with 10-over par 82s.
This marks the 13th tournament of the 14 Pierce has played in this season that she has led after round one.
Pierce got off to a solid start, going even par through the first third of the course, with one birdie and one bogey.
“It was like a rollercoaster,” Pierce said. “I started off super, super hot. I even had a couple two putts I should’ve made on crazy holes that I usually don’t get putts on.”
Despite the quality start, the round moved more slowly through the middle third from holes 8a to 15 due to a number of backups. Here Pierce struggled to find her putt on holes 9 and 10, which she double and triple bogeyed. On hole 10, specifically, she missed her 40-foot birdie attempt before missing her next four putts.
“It’s a long round, it’s 24 holes and there’s a lot of backups, and it just takes a long time,” Pierce said. “It kinda got a little stagnant in the middle and didn’t feel so good. Then I realized we’re not even halfway through, so even though I struggled I realized how many holes I had left and tried to stay calm and warm. Luckily I didn’t carry it over. I just knew it was a small mental error and it was only 12 holes in. So, you just have to shake it off and realize you have over half the round left and you can’t let one green get in your head.”
That realization after hole 10 ultimately helped Pierce settle in down the stretch. She went 1-under par through the final eight holes, ending her round by collecting a birdie on the iconic “Top of the World” hole 27.
While Pierce had momentary struggles with her putting, so did Madison Walker, who made her first tournament appearance since being forced to drop out of the Nick Hyde Memorial in late March with a lingering wrist injury.
“I definitely left some out there,” Walker said. “My wrist is a little bit unpredictable, like sometimes I’ll putt and I just accidently won’t put any spin on it. I’ll miss really low or short, but everything else seems to be going well. My drives are okay. I’m not really throwing any forehand drives because that’s what puts a little bit of strain on my wrist, so I’m just keeping it backhand for the most part.”
Walker said she had no expectations in terms of score heading into her first round after being unable to spend any time in front of a basket for two months, despite throwing a 1-over par 73 in her only practice round prior to the event.
“I wasn’t necessarily expecting to be able to play,” Walker said. “I kind of flew out here with high hopes, but I didn’t actually think it was going to work. There was nothing that was going to get me aggravated because — well, I missed a few 10 to 15-foot putts today and normally that would make me really upset, but I can’t really control it. I was just happy to be able finish a round, especially because DeLa is my favorite course on the planet.”
Walker plans to keep with the “no expectations” approach over the next two rounds as one of six in the field within five strokes of Pierce, who is looking for her eighth wire-to-wire win of the season.
Of the 12 times Pierce has had the lead after round one prior to the Masters Cup, she has maintained that lead after the second round seven times. The five times that she has surrendered at least total control of the lead, or lost it outright, have all come over the last two months of the season.
Pierce will try to avoid a continuation of the trend during the second round when Bradley, Allen and Jenkins join her for another round at DeLaveaga. The foursome tee off at 2:20 p.m. Pacific for one last round at the famed course before heading to the DeLaveaga Golf Course for Sunday’s final round.