A rookie currently leads the LPGA in driving distance with a 287.462 average. Unlike Bryson DeChambeau, Bianca Pagdanganan didn’t seek out extra yardage. In fact, she can’t really even explain where her power comes from.
Her mantra, repeated throughout a recent phone conversation, is “I try not to force anything.”
Pagdanganan’s coach at Arizona, Laura Ianello, points to “insanely” fast hips and use of the ground as key to her power. She’s 4 yards longer than Maria Fassi on the LPGA stats list and 5 yards ahead of Anne van Dam.
Pagdanganan – who for the record isn’t really a fan of protein shakes – consistently carried the ball 275 yards in college, but really doesn’t keep track of how far she’s hitting it now. LPGA courses often force her to keep driver in the bag. Pagdanganan carries her 3-wood 245 yards.
Like a Major League pitcher with the God-given gift of a fastball, Ianello marvels at Pagdanganan’s rare talent. It’s why they called her “the unicorn” in college.
“(Bianca) is eventually going to make a ton of money on the LPGA once she can dial in those numbers with her short irons,” said Ianello.
Not to mention her length advantage on the par 5s. At the Marathon Classic in August, Pagdanganan made back-to-back eagles on the closing par 5s in the second round to shoot 67.
The 22-year-old, who carded an NCAA record-tying 61 in college and helped the Wildcats win the 2018 NCAA Championship, has teed it up in four tournaments so far on the LPGA and made the cut each time, her best finish coming at the Drive On Championship at Inverness where she tied for 28th. She’s got a good chance of making it into next month’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Bianca Pagdanganan (Photo submitted)
Pagdanganan gets excited each time she checks the pairings at an event to see who she’ll get to meet the next day. She particularly enjoyed recent rounds in Portland alongside Mo Martin and Sarah Kemp, commenting on their kindness and taking notes on the meticulousness of their pre-shot routines.
The petite Martin plays a game that is foreign to the long-hitting Pagdanganan, but the rookie is wise enough to understand how much she can still learn.
“You just start to realize that there are other parts of your game that you need to polish,” she said.
While still in college, Pagdanganan played alongside long-hitting Angel Yin in the first two rounds of the Marathon Classic and routinely outdrove her 10 to 20 yards, said Ianello, who was on the bag that week. It was clear then that Pagdanganan would be among the longest – if not the longest – on tour.
The biggest takeaway, however, came when she played alongside a very pregnant Stacy Lewis in Toledo and was outdriving the former No. 1 by more than 50 yards. Lewis shot 6 under that day, and Pagdanganan finished even par.
Pagdanganan is not a technical player. Driver is her favorite club in the bag and late in high school, she started to gain distance. It wasn’t until college, when people started to comment on her length, that she began to take note.
She asked her coach in the Philippines how she should respond to questions about her length.
“I literally just try to hit it as hard as I can and it goes far,” she said. “I guess the reason, they say, is the lag in my swing.”
Two-time LPGA winner Jennifer Rosales was Pagdanganan’s idol growing up, and she’d often see her giving lessons at Wack Wack Golf and Country Club in Manila.
Ianello says Pagdanganan, a humble player who is now living her childhood dream on the LPGA, wants to put the Philippines on the map. There was never a lazy day for her back in Tucson. The inner drive was obvious.
Bianca Pagdanganan hits into a net while stuck at home.
Because of her father’s heart condition, Ianello said, Pagdanganan sat tight in San Diego during the LPGA’s extended break, choosing to quarantine rather than get out and play in mini-tour events. She was perfectly content with that decision, knowing that her game would keep until her rookie season could reboot.
“That alone right there shows you the lack of ego that she has,” said Ianello.
Her father bought a Swing Caddie and net for the backyard in San Diego so that she could work on her distances. No drivers though.
“I don’t want to scare the neighbors,” she said with a laugh.
Stuck at Home With: LPGA rookie Bianca Pagdanganan
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