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Bianca rises as longest hitter

It feels great to finish my first event. I had so much fun, so it feels like it went by so fast.

Rey Bancod

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BIANCA Pagdanganan emerges as the longest hitter in her maiden LPGA stint./ Gregory Shamus /Agence France-Presse

Bianca Pagdanganan established herself as the longest hitter in the tour after finishing joint 28th in her professional debut in the LPGA Drive On Championship at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.

Averaging an eye-popping driving distance of 295.333 yards through three rounds, the 22-year-old Southeast Asian Games champion closed out with a one-over par 73 to finish the 54-hole event on four-over par 220.

Danielle Kang, the winner on seven-under 209, averaged only 263 yards off the tee on Sunday.

“It feels great to finish my first event. I had so much fun, so it feels like it went by so fast,” said Pagdanganan who earned $6,862 (roughly P343,100).

Pagdanganan was tied with 11 others, including former world No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand.

“I don’t usually have any expectations coming into the tournaments, but I am pretty satisfied with how I finished especially with how tough the conditions were,” said Pagdanganan.

On Sunday, Pagdanganan cracked the LPGA’s version of the four-minute mile, averaging 300 yards off the tee.

For the third straight day, Pagdanganan made mincemeat of the 487-yard, par-5 second hole, scoring her second straight birdie after an eagle on Friday.

But the par-4, 10th hole turned out to be her waterloo.

After posting a double bogey on Saturday, Pagdanganan made bogey after missing a short putt on Sunday.

“Yesterday was just one error after the other. I hit the fairway bunker then my third shot, I missed long which was just the wrong side to miss then I two-putted,” Pagdanganan described her ordeal on No. 10 in the second round.

Pagdanganan made back-to-back birdies from the 12th to get to even par, but dropped another shot on the 16th after being forced to punch out of the rough and missed a par-saving putt.

She described her three-round effort as average.

“I know I could have done better but again, these weren’t the easiest conditions,” she said.

Pagdanganan said she will retain the services of veteran caddie Mick Taler in the Marathon Classic set next week in Sylvania, Ohio.

“I’m definitely looking forward to next week. I really missed playing competitive golf,” said Pagdanganan whose LPGA stint is sponsored by ICTSI, Skyflakes, Diamond Motors, Philippine Airlines, PING, Titliest, Footjoy and SwingDish.

California-based Clariss Guce stumbled with a triple bogey 7 on the 10th hole on her way to a four-over par 76 and a share of 64th place.

Guce made the turn at even par after a birdie on the opening hole and a bogey on the ninth. After that 7, she birdied No. 13 before dropping shots on the 14th and 16th.

Meanwhile, Kang held off France’s Celine Boutier over the final holes to win the tour’s first tournament since February after a COVID-19 shutdown.

It was the fourth career title for the 27-year-old American, whose first win was a major, the 2017 Women’s PGA Championship, and whose other two came at Shanghai in 2018 and 2019.

“I worked really hard for the last seven months,” Kang said. “I’m really excited right now.”

Kang fired a two-under par 70 to finish 54 holes on 7-under 209, one shot better than Boutier, who missed a four-foot birdie putt on the last hole that would have forced a playoff.

Boutier was alone in second after a closing 71 with Australian Minjee Lee third on 212, Japan’s Yui Kawamoto fourth on 213 and England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff fifth on 214 after a closing 75.

with AFP

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