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Bianca: LPGA’s surprise package

The 23-year-old Filipina’s priority ranking was 167th severely limiting the number of starts she will get at the start of the season

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Bianca Pagdanganan was not on the radar of Tony Jeselli when the expert Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) commentator picked the rookies to watch in 2020.

Jeselli said the rookie class has some of the best players to come out of collegiate golf in quite some time and named eight players whom he believes would make their marks.

First on the list was American Yealimi Noh, the youngest in the list at 19. She turned down a scholarship at the University of California-Los Angeles to turn pro. She nearly won twice in the LPGA Tour as a Monday qualifier in 2019.

Next came Thai Patty Tavatanakit, who won thrice in the Symetra Tour in 2019, and Swiss Albane Valenzuela, a two-time runner-up of the US Women’s Amateur Championship.

No. 4 was Ireland’s Leona Maguire who sat on top of the women’s world amateur rankings for 135 weeks, the longest in history.

German Esther Henseleit was fifth on the list by virtue of topping the Order of Merit on the Ladies European Tour.
No. 6 was Andrea Lee, the most decorated golfer in Stanford University history and No. 7 was Korean Jiwon Jeon, the 2

018 Women’s Amateur Championship finalist.

Finally in eighth spot was Haley Moore, Pagdanganan’s teammate at University of Arizona who won the deciding match over University of Alabama in the 2018 NCAA Women’s Golf Championship.
Understandably, Pagdanganan was ignored because the 23-year-old Filipina’s priority ranking was 167th severely limiting the number of starts she will get at the start of the season.

Fortunately, Pagdanganan managed to play in 10 of 18 LPGA events, missing only one cut and finishing twice in the Top 10.

She played in two majors — the KPMG Women’s PGA and US Women’s Open Championships — and earned enough points to book a spot in the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.
She also earned the distinction as the tour’s longest hitter with an average distance of 283.071 yards.

Her total earnings of $203,775 is 60th in the LPGA money list and third in the rookie class behind top-ranked Noh’s $415,307 and No. 6 Lee’s $242,944.

Tavatanakit, ranked second in Jeselli’s list, earned only $84,923 while No. 3 Valenzuela took home $25,342.

Rounding out Jeselli’s picks: No. 4 Maguire, $180,387; No. 5 Henseleit, $17,705; No. 7 Jiwon, $19,983; and No. 8 Moore, $23,981.

This is how the rest of the rookies fared at the close of the season:

Jillian Hollis, $21,796; Esther Lee, $36,217; Yui Kawamoto, $141,576; Jennifer Chang, $38,262; Maia Schechter, $6,037; Linnea Johansson, $14,509; Yujeong Son, $11,804; Nuria Iturrioz, $9,384; and Kyung Kim, 0.
Pagdanganan turned out to be the biggest surprise among the rookies.

Let’s take a look at Pagdanganan’s other stats:

No. 60 in scoring average with 71.886, No. 33 in putting with 29.74, tied for fourth with five eagles, No. 76 in birdies with 3.2, No. 117 in driving accuracy with 67.3 percent and No. 88 in greens in regulation with 65.1 percent.

It is clear what areas Pagdanganan needs to work on in the off-season.

Despite the fine showing, Pagdanganan will still retain her priority status for next season.

This means she will still be considered as rookie and can’t compete as much as she wants to.

 

She played in two majors — the KPMG Women’s PGA and US Women’s Open Championships — and earned enough points to book a spot in the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Last May, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said top women golfers will keep their status because the coronavirus-halted 2020 campaign has not delivered the season they earned.
That means only winners can move up in the priority list.
The LPGA has announced a 34-tournament calendar next year across North America, Europe and Asia worth a record $76.45 million in prize money.
The LPGA was hard-hit by the pandemic, losing events on its Asian swing last February weeks before other sports including tennis and the major US sports leagues, were forced to shut down operations.
In 2021, all of the events that were postponed in 2020 because of the pandemic will return to the schedule, although the tour has made adjustments to cope with pandemic-related challenges that will linger into the new year.
Full-field events won’t begin until late February, and the usual Asia swing has been moved back to late April and early May.
The 2021 season will open with the Tournament of Champions presented at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando in Florida on 21 to 24 January.
For 2021 only the field will feature winners from the past three seasons.
Full-field events begin with the 25-28 February Gainbridge Championship at a Florida venue still to be announced.

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