Pagdanganan boosts title drive in Georgia


    REGAINING her putting touch in time, Bianca Pandangan birdied the last two holes for a 3-under 69 yesterday to keep the pressure on American frontrunner Ally McDonald with a round left in the LPGA Drive On Championship-Reynolds Lake Oconee tournament in Greensboro, Georgia.

    Bogged down by two bogeys on holes Nos. 3 and No. 5, Pagdanganan recovered strongly on the back nine in the $1.3 million event for a 54-hole tally of 204 over the par-72 6,664-yard Great Waters course.

    She was in solo second place, one stroke behind McDonald, a five-year tour veteran who shot a 69 for 203 in her quest for her first LPGA win and the championship purse of $1,300,000 (roughly P62.9 million).

    “I felt great after making my last putt.  I was hitting a lot of good shots but I couldn’t get putts to drop.  But I am still very happy how I played,” said the Filipina tour rookie and 30th Southeast Asian Games double gold medalist in the post-round press conference.

    Starting on the front and one shot behind McDonald entering yesterday’s round, Pagdanganan flirted with the lead with the first of her five birdies of the day on hole No. 2, a par-five, before relinquishing it with bogeys on holes No. 3 and No. 5.

    She erased those mistakes with additional birdies on the seventh and nine holes to finish with a 35 coming out.

    “I was telling (my caddie) Brandon, it’s fine if the putts aren’t dropping, but I’m giving myself really, really good opportunities. Eventually they’re going to have to drop,” noted Pagdanganan, who parred the seven first holes on the back nine. “I would make a little more time to read the greens.”

    Her patience and perseverance finally paid off on the 17th when she gunned down a 15-footer, much to her relief.

    “After my putt on 17th I said ‘Oh finally.’ Literally a sigh of relief,” Pagdanganan recalled of the shot that boosted her morale going into the final hole.

    “Coming into 18, I was like, ‘okay, just hit a good drive and give yourself another good chance to make a birdie,’” she said.

    Known as the longest hitter on the tour, the 2018 Asian Games gold medalist set herself up with a brilliant 300-plus yard drive to No. 18 on her second hot, landing just outside the fringe in a bunker.

    But Pagdanganan kept her poise, chipping from 15 feet before sinking a three-foot birdie to wind up on a strong note in only her sixth tournament on the tour.

    She said that her experience in the recent KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, one of the tour’s majors where she finished in a tie for ninth, reinforced her belief that she could keep up with the circuit’s big guns.

    “I think playing at the KPMG was a confidence booster. It helped me realize I can play good golf and be in contention,” Pagdanganan said.

    “It’s more on how I can handle my nerves tomorrow. It’s going to be there but today I handled it pretty well.  So stick to your game plan and don’t let anything crazy happen,” added the former national athlete, who will be paired off in the championship flight with McDonald and another player.