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SEAG golf champ raring to make a run at Olympics

Dante Navarro - Philstar.com
SEAG golf champ raring to make a run at Olympics
Bianca Pagdanganan

MANILA, Philippines – A bit upset over her failure to launch her LPGA Tour rookie campaign the way she had planned it, Bianca Pagdanganan believes the setback due to the world health crisis only gave her more time to steel herself up for a bigger mission on a bigger stage.

Olympics.

“It sucks that it (LPGA Tour) got pushed back, I know a lot of people were looking forward to it,” said Pagdanganan, who earned her LPGA card by finishing tied for 38th in the grueling eight-round Q-Series late last year but the coronavirus pandemic held back all events in the sporting world, frustrating the US-based shotmaker no end.

But she tends to think there is a silver lining to the pandemic, saying the long break from competition now enables her to make a run for a dream stint in the Tokyo Olympics, also pushed back to 2021 by the health crisis.

“I guess I have more time to actually prepare for it and give myself a better chance of getting in (to the Olympics),” said the US-based Pagdanganan in a recent Golfweek interview.

She hardly gave much thought of representing the Philippines in the 2016 Rio Games but after powering the country to a sweep of the SEA Games gold medals last December, she felt she’s more than ready to take a crack at an Olympic berth, particularly now that the qualifiers have also been reset, giving those outside of the current Top 60 ranking a fair shot at one of the coveted slots.

Japan-based Yuka Saso and Dottie Ardina actually keep their spots at Nos. 50 and 51, respectively, in the latest Olympic ranking but Pagdanganan believes a solid LPGA campaign would put her right in the mix.

So she planned to play in everything she could get into to earn ranking points in a season where she also looked forward to learning the whole process, including joining the Monday qualifiers.

But the season stalled out weeks before the LPGA Tour could ever return after back-to-back tournaments in Australia, virtually shattering the 2017 Philippine Ladies Open champion’s dream of putting up a strong start to a maiden season.

“It’s a little frustrating since I was really excited to start my rookie year on the tour,” she said.

With the world’s lucrative circuit set to resume at the end of this month in Ohio, the University of Arizona product hopes to clinch a spot in the elite roster although a stint in LPGA’s farm league Symetra Tour is on the line if she fails to land a berth in the inaugural $1 million LPGA Drive On Championship in Toledo.

“I'm really hoping that I get into the tournament in Ohio,” said Pagdanganan. “If I don't get in, then I'll play a Symetra event, the Firekeepers Casino Hotel Championship, in Michigan that same week.”

Whatever event she would compete in, Pagdanganan believes she would be more than ready to slug it out with the best, staying in game-shape, physically and mentally, throughout the long break.

Not just for the demanding LPGA or Symetra Tour campaign but more so for a shot at a dream Olympic stint.

BIANCA PAGDANGANAN GOLF
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