Ball control key to Bianca Pagdanganan's LPGA, Olympic bids

Dante Navarro - Philstar.com
Ball control key to Bianca Pagdanganan's LPGA, Olympic bids
Bianca Pagdanganan

MANILA, Philippines – Bianca Pagdanganan is focusing on ball control to gain more consistency as she cranks up her preparations not only for the resumption of her campaign in the LPGA Tour in two months time but also the Olympics in July.

The Tour’s driving champ finished at No. 88 in greens in regulation with a 65.1 percent norm in her maiden LPGA season last year and coach Carito Villaroman sees the need for his 23-year-old ward to sharpen her iron play as well as her short game to reach a high level of competitive potential.

“We are working on her ball control, especially from 150 yards in,” said Villaroman, who handled Pagdanganan since she was 11, told The STAR. “I’m trying to get her to fade the ball with her short clubs because that would translate to more consistency and greens in regulation hit.”

The former Philippine Ladies Open champ is relishing every minute of her break here, reuniting with and keeping track of her relatives and friends while slipping into a game or two to stay in shape.  

Villaroman, a former three-time Junior World champion, also underscored the need for the ICTSI-backed Pagdanganan to convert more missed greens into par, saying: “We’ll be working on her short game and putting and I believe the results will come as we focus more on the improvements needed.”

He said they plan to train at The Country Club and Wack Wack East, two of the country’s top championship courses whose challenges are expected to further toughen up the Univ. of Arizona product, who is eyeing a return to competitive play in March or April as a rookie again.

This came after the LPGA Tour decided to restrict the players in 2020 with the rankings carried into the new season due to pandemic, meaning the rookies in 2020 will remain rookies this year.

Aside from helping fine-tune her game, Villaroman also emphasized the importance of discipline, an essential ingredient to success, reminding her “to stay in the present, take one shot at a time and enjoy the process.”

Also on their radar is the Tokyo Olympics, moved to July 23-Aug. 8, 2021 due to the global health crisis and where Pagdanganan is eager to play in not just for personal mission but also for the chance to represent the country again after scoring a double-gold medal sweep for the Philippines in the 2019 SEA Games.

“I want to represent the Philippines again,” she said in a recent post.

“It was always her goal to play in the Olympics,” said Villaroman. “All the things that she has been working on is in preparation for her campaign in the upcoming Tokyo Games."

With a current Olympic ranking of No. 41, Pagdanganan, who also bagged the bronze while helping Team Phl win the gold in the 2018 Asian Games, is looking to nail the last of two slots allotted for the Philippines, the first virtually secured by LPGA of Japan Tour-based and Asian Games gold medalist Yuka Saso, who is at No. 21.

The top 60 by the International Golf Federation in its Olympic ranking will get to play in the Tokyo Games although the qualification period will run until June 28.

Pagdanganan made quite an impact in her rookie season, winning the driving honors with her 284-yard norm. She also posted eight consecutive cuts made, spiked by a joint ninth place effort in her first major, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and a best third place feat in the LPGA Drive On Championship.

She, however, missed the cut in her second crack at a major, the US Women’s Open, and closed out her stint with a tied for 68th finish in the CME Group Tour Championship. She is currently ranked No. 150 in the world after starting out at No. 798.

If she fails to land a spot in the Drive On Championship on March 4-7 in Florida, and in the Kia Classic on March 25-28, in California, Pagdanganan is looking to start the season in the ANA Inspiration, a major, on April 1-4, in Rancho Mirage, also in California.

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