By Jerry Roth
The Professional women (FPO) of disc golf have fought, grinded, and battled their way through three rounds to get here to the final day of the 2017 Ledgestone Open presented by Discraft. The courses weren’t easy and every birdie was definitely earned. The Leader after three rounds was Jessica Weese, playing very solid disc golf who was able to keep four-time World Champion Valarie Jenkins from holding onto the top spot. The back and forth between the two top competitors has been amazing to see. The question before the start of the final round was, will Jessica play well enough to take home the victory in Central Illinois? With the rain descending upon the players, the pads were slick and the players had to somehow keep their discs dry.
In the competitive world of professional disc golf every stroke as well as every round will inevitably make the difference between a good finish or climbing up a steep hill. Unfortunately, Sarah Hokom had to climb the steep hill this week. At the end of her struggles she found a way to climb back to a negative number and join the lead card for the final day. Even if she doesn’t cause an upset in the leaderboard, Sarah showed the fans what determination can achieve and this week Sarah showed a lot. Sarah gave a valiant effort but fell to fifth place with a -6 to end her tournament.
Because of some bad breaks and some rough starts Paige was never able to put together a round that fans are used to seeing from her. There is no doubt she will bounce back stronger than ever. But this week was not meant to be for the incredible player. She finished the tournament in fourth place with a -7.
Ragna Bygde Lewis
One of the most exciting elements of this year’s Ledgestone Insurance Open was the reemergence of the Swedish sensation, Ragna Bygde. She was always well received as an elite player but her gritty and high level playing at one of the biggest disc golf venues this week among the best and brightest golfers showed the fans that she is for real and hasn’t missed a beat. If she chooses to play the rest of the events in the DGPT this year, she will be a player to take seriously as a contender. Ragna had the hottest score during round three and solidified her place in the tournament. Repeating her performance is what she needed to do today. Ragna had a tough first nine but made up for it on the back nine. She never moved up the leaderboard but she had a great tournament finishing -13 and alone in third place.
Jessica Weese is a California player who has come into her own this season and specifically playing well on the Disc Golf Pro Tour finishing third at the Jonesboro Open and taking a victory away from fellow competitor, Catrina Allen at the Utah Open. Her strong forehand-backhand game has made her one of the strongest women in the field and this year seems to be the season that she shines the brightest. Jessica played amazing all week and leading nearly the entire tournament.
Valarie Jenkins is much more than just a disc golfer. With her bubbly, good-hearted personality, she makes it easy to root her to a win. Val may be a veteran to disc golf and winner of four World Championships, but her serene person allows you to believe she was the underdog all along even after every win she collects. This week, Valarie put herself in position to take down another big tournament and the only person directly in her way is Jessica Weese. They have shared the lead during the initial rounds but Jessica seemed to always find a way to snatch the lead at the end of each day. Many opponents could testify that if you let Valarie Jenkins hang around too long she will probably find a way to win.
Early on in the final round, Jessica was the first to blink, carding a bogey on the very first hole to tie her score with Val’s. Hole number one measures 738 feet and conquering it is no small task for any player and Ragna just might agree as she found troubles of her own on the very same hole. With nearly no margin of error Jessica found her chance for victory threatened before she ever got past the first nine holes. Valarie ended her day with -18, Jessica Weese -18.
Valarie and Jessica battled most of the day until they were deadlocked finishing the last hole and they were forced into a 2-hole playoff. As it would have it all came down to a water hole. Jessica came up one stroke short and Valarie was able to overtake the young, great player.
Valerie Jenkins is your 2017 Ledgestone Insurance Open Winner! This year’s Women’s division was by far the most exciting conclusion to a Ledgestone event and will be talked about for quite a while. Valarie played amazing golf, keeping her composure to the very end and taking home the title. Congratulations to Val Jenkins from Nate Heinold and the staff at the DGPT. What an amazing win. Go Val!