Bianca Pagdanganan cards second consecutive 65 at KPMG to contend in major debut
NEWTOWN SQUARE, PA. - After Bianca Pagdanganan opened at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship with a 77, her father Sam picked her up at Aronimink Golf Club and said, "Welcome to the majors."
Pagdanganan had putted her way to a triple bogey on her third hole four times and never really recovered. Later that day, she received an email from tournament officials that those who had made the cut could have two guests on the pitch over the weekend. Previously only trainers were allowed.
Pagdanganan didn't want to let her first major go by without her father watching her punch.
"That was my motivation," she said of the second round of 65, which she picked up on the board.
RESULTS: KPMG Women's PGA Championship
On Saturday, Pagdanganan posted another clean 65 in front of her father and an aunt who lives nearby in New Jersey to jump into the top 5, four shots back from leader Sei Young Kim. Since Thursday she has no chance of the sophisticated design by Donald Ross.
"I didn't even expect to get into KPMG until someone told me I was the second alternative after the Portland event," she said. "I thought I was going to go to a major? Yeah really?"
Due to the 12 hour time difference, Pagdanganan's family in the Philippines has to stay up all night to see the action live. They blew up their cell phone with messages. This is only her fifth start in an LPGA event as a pro and her sixth start overall. The Arizona graduate didn't qualify for last week's ShopRite LPGA Classic, which had a smaller field. Instead, she went to Ping and had something special written on one of her wedges.
Pagdanganan's paternal grandmother, Corazon, died on September 22, the day she found out she had been accepted into the KPMG. Her mother Bing also celebrated her birthday that day. Corazon loved making Bianca's favorite dishes when she was at home in the Philippines.
Sam and his sister Niña were unable to travel back to the Philippines because of COVID-19. Six of Corazon's seven children were actually in the United States when she died and they mourned together over video calls.
Corazon was 87 and died peacefully of natural causes.
Sam cried when he saw his mother's name on Bianca's 60 degree wedge. Corazon means "heart" in Spanish.
Bianca Pagdanganan's wedges with her grandmother's name, Corazon, on the 60 degree wheel. (Courtesy photo by Niña Pagdanganan)
Before Bianca's second round, her father told her that the problem was not her swing or mechanics. She just let the size of the moment sink in.
"Don't try too hard," he said. "The solution is to think better."
Aronimink has a multitude of well-known players, but 2020 has made it impossible to predict life.
A woman who had no LPGA status at all won the first major of the year. Why couldn't Pagdanganan, who ranks 7112 in the world, win her big debut?
Pagdanganan, who helped Arizona win the NCAA Championship in 2018, is currently the longest player on tour with an average driving distance of 287 meters. That length was crucial this week, but where it has made tremendous progress lately is the putting green, thanks in part to the COVID-19 quarantine in San Diego. She credited a putting aid called Blast Golf for helping pace her stroke.
"It is said that the ideal ratio of your putting stroke should be two to one," she said, "so your back stroke should be twice as long as your follow-through."
However, the feel player tries not to overthink things. At this point, the point is to trust the game that got them within striking distance at a major on Sunday.
"I'm just telling myself that there is a reason you're here and good enough to be out here," Pagdanganan said. "Just don't try to do something spectacular. Just enjoy and play your game."
Six groups start after the leaders in the final round of the KPMG Women 's PGA
KPMG Women's PGA for a "monstrous" week at Aronimink
Meet the LPGA's newest power player, Bianca Pagdanganan, who leads within driving distance
Stuck at home with: LPGA rookie Bianca Pagdanganan
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