IN a development that could affect her Olympic qualifying bid, 30th Southeast Asian Games double gold medalist Bianca Pagdanganan is not scheduled to make her return to the US LPGA tour until mid-April due to the “playabilities rules” drawn up for the 2021 season.
The long-hitting Pagdanganan, who spent her Christmas vacation in the Philippines, hasn’t seen action in the US ladies’ circuit since competing in the CME Group Tour Championship last December, finishing tied for 68th place at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida.
“It’s not because she (Pagdanganan) doesn’t want to tee it up, but because of the playability rules for 2021,” Amy Rogers wrote in a recent article posted on the website of the Golf Channel (golfchannel.com).
Rogers pointed out that the LPGA’s annual priority list is the guide that it uses to determine who gets into the field each week.
“LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan announced last May that the tour would use the same priority list for the 2021 season as it had in 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Winners in 2020 could improve their position on the priority list with a victory, but everyone else, regardless of performance, would maintain their status heading into 2021.”
Pagdanganan is virtually starting as tour rookie anew, despite the fact she recorded two top 10s last year – third in the LPGA Drive On Championship and ninth in the prestigious KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – while winding up 60th overall on the money list with $203,775 (roughly P9.9 million) in winnings in 10 tournaments.
“In an ordinary year, that top-80 finish on the money list would have earned her (Pagdanganan) entry into nearly every event in 2021,” Rogers wrote. “Pagdanganan, however, won’t get to reap the rewards of a solid first season.
“Instead she sits at No. 167 in Category 14, which is made up of the top 45 finishers in the 2019 qualifying series. It’s the same position she held at the start of last season with a limited number of playing opportunities.”
Pagdanganan just shrugged off her predicament, saying: “I try not to think about it as much since there’s only so much we can control, and how I feel towards certain things is one of the few that I can.
“I’m just going to enjoy this year and the tournaments I’ll be playing.”
The former University of Arizona varsity mainstay said her experience on the tour last year would serve her well in her scheduled comeback at the Lotte Championship slated April 14 to 17 at the Ko Olina Golf Club in Oahu, Hawaii.
“I don’t exactly know I feel about having a second ‘rookie’ season, but it’s nice to come into the year with more experience because of I was able to play in the last year,” Pagdanganan said. “With that experience, I have a better idea as to where my game stands and use last year as motivation to work harder and become a better player.”
She will have a lot of catching up to do considering she is currently No. 42 in the latest International Golf Federation Olympic qualifying rankings that decides who will be eligible to compete in the Tokyo Summer Games in July.