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Idlewild Open FPO Preview – Will Pierce continue her dominant run?

By Baker Helton
The Idlewild Open driven by Innova Discs and The Nati kicks off this week and if history and this year’s most recent competition tell us anything – Paige Pierce is going to win.

Paige Pierce winning is nothing new, but between her current success (she has won every event since Santa Cruz) and the past two years at Idlewild (in 2017 Pierce won by nine, 2018 she won by seven); you can almost say with certainty that she will win again. What has her path to success in the previous two years?  In 2017 Paige struggled a little bit on making C2 in regulation but made up for things by dominating the putting stats boxes. In 2018 she was able to shore up her drives but lost strokes with a drop in scramble percentage and putting. The one question in Paige’s game going into Idlewild will be how she will handle her C1x putting. Currently this season she is 21st in the FPO field in C1x putting. If there were going to be anything that was going to stop Paige (at least on paper), it would be her putting.

Another constant in the FPO competition is Sarah Hokom taking second at this event. In 2017, the race for second place was relatively close. Sarah only took second over Lisa Fajkus by two throws. In 2018 while Sarah lost to Paige by seven, she outpaced Rebecca Cox by thirteen. In 2017 Sarah was able to edge out the competition for second place by being 1st in C1 in regulation and 2nd in C2 in regulation. Her driving put her in a position to outstretch Lisa. In 2018 it was the same two stats that helped propel her above the competition. This year Sarah has switched sponsors (to MVP) and has struggled to maintain the top three spots (and Tour Points and Championship title) that she had last season. The one place on the stat sheet where Sarah is still hanging on is scrambling. Given the technical aspects of the Idlewild course, scrambling is critical, so this could be an advantage for Sarah in a potential shot at repeating for second place.

Elsewhere in the field, local-pro Rebecca Cox was able to improve her standing from 5th in 2017 to 3rd in 2018. Her success on her hometown course the past two years is very similar to her success in the 2019 season. This year Rebecca has been able to stick close in the Tour Points race and is currently 3rd in Tour Points behind Catrina Allen and Paige Pierce. Rebecca’s performance last year at Idlewild and her performance so far this season indicates that she might be in a prime spot to leap-frog Sarah into second place. Rebecca is not only positioned to take second but given Paige’s travel schedule coming back from the European Open, she could make a run at winning her first Pro Tour event.

One player who has seemingly struggled at this event the past two years has been Catrina Allen. In 2017 Catrina’s T5th finish was among one of her three worst finishes on the pro tour that season. In 2018 her 8th place finish at the event was also her second-worst finish. While top ten finishes on tour are nothing to shake a stick at, one would expect a player with the win record of Catrina’s to be dominating across the board at events. In 2017  Catrina struggled to make it onto the fairway, and she also failed to make a single C2 putt while playing at Idlewild. In 2018 at this event Cat struggled to make it onto the fairway, which in turn hurt her scramble rate. Coupled with a low putting percentage, Catrina ended up barely making the cash line. Based on the stats it would seem Cat’s inability to get clean off the drive is what has hurt her performance at Idlewild the past two seasons. This season though Catrina has cleaned things up, she is 2nd in the field in fairway hits across all events and leads parked and C2 in regulation percentages. If she can power through her past mistakes on the Idlewild course, it is possible that she will be set up for success.

Another story this season is the expanding FPO field. In 2017 twelve FPO players attended Idlewild, in 2018 there were nineteen, this year there are currently twenty-seven players registered for the division. A few notable players who will be in attendance for the first time this year include Callie McMorran, Hailey King, Vanessa Van Dyken, and Elaine King. Callie McMorran and Hailey King have toured together this summer, and both have had their successes on the course. Hailey King most recently had a strong performance at the Ledgestone Insurance Open. Vanessa Van Dyken has been touring this year with more veracity than years past, and this has resulted in her making it into the top ten in DGPT standings. She has consistently finished within the top ten this season. Finally, Elaine King is a stalwart in the FPO division and her precision on the course could lend itself to competitive success at Idlewild this weekend.

The Idlewild Open driven by Innova and The Nati kicks off July 26th and will include two feature cards from the FPO division. The live feature card will consist of Paige Pierce, Sarah Hokom, Jessica Weese and the winner of the fan vote. The post-produced feature card from GK Pro will include Madison Walker, Christine Jennings, and Rebecca Cox alongside the runner-up in the fan vote. You can watch the live-action on the DGPT YouTube channel and the Disc Golf Network starting at 9 AM ET each day. Tell your friends and tune in to watch!