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Bianca plunges into action

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Bianca Pagdanganan hits her bunker shot on the 14th hole during the second round of the Pelican Women's Championship. MIKE EHRMANN /AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

It will be a test of character as Bianca Pagdanganan goes through the Monday qualifier in pursuit of a coveted berth in the Gainbridge LPGA unfolding 25 February at the Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Florida.

Only two slots will be up for grabs in the 18-hole elims where the power-hitting Filipina will be slugging it out with 40-plus other bidders for berths in the $2 million event serving as the second leg of this year’s LPGA Tour which goes full blast following a pandemic-disrupted season.

The world’s premier circuit got under way with the Tournament of Champions, also in Florida, last month with 33 other official events lined up this year across North America, Europe and Asia, including two new tournaments with players competing for a record $76.45 million in purses.

Pagdanganan made quite an impression in her maiden season, posting a third-place finish in the LPGA Drive On and a joint ninth effort in her first major, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. But she struggled in her last four tournaments, missing the cut in her second major, the US Women’s Open, and ending up tied at 68th in the season-closing CME Group Tour Championship.

The ICTSI-backed shotmaker, however, emerged the driving leader with a 284-yard norm but eventually wound up 65th in the Race to CME Globe Season ranking and failed to land an outright spot in this week’s Gainbridge tilt bannered by the world’s leading players.

Madelene Sagstrom nipped Japanese Nasa Hataoka by one to snare last year’s crown but the Swede ace will have her hands full this time with the likes of Koreans Jin Young Ko, Sei Young Kim and Inbee Park, the world’s top three players, headlining the stellar field.

Also in the fold is Jessica Korda, who edged Danielle Kang in sudden death to snatch the Tournament of Champions title recently, along with sister Nelly Korda, Lexi Thompson, Sung Hyun Park, Brittany Lincicome, Jennifer Kupcho, Lydia Ko, Alena Sharp, Amy Olson and Anna Nordqvist.

Pagdanganan is also set to go through the Monday elims in the next LPGA event, the Drive On Championship at Golden Ocala, also in Florida from 4 to 7 March.

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