By Rey Bancod
Bianca Pagdanganan powered University of Arizona to the US National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women’s golf championship Wednesday that earned her an exemption to play in an LPGA event in July.
The Wildcats edged Alabama, 3-2, in the match play final held at the Karsten Creek Golf Club, capping a dramatic week that saw them topple powerhouse UCLA and Stanford.
Pagdanganan, a 20-year-old sports management junior, finished second in the four-round, stroke play qualifying Monday, her final hole eagle forcing a sudden-death playoff between Arizona and Baylor for the final spot in the eight-team match play phase.
The Wildcats prevailed on the second playoff hole.
Pagdanganan led the Wildcats with 6-under following rounds of 71-68-71-72.
“Who knew that that putt could go a long way,” Pagdanganan told Arizona Athletics. “It was amazing. Going into this hole (18), I had no idea where we were at. My mindset was to get it close to the hole. And it fell in. I’m glad that it happened. But ever since that putt, it helped pump my teammates up and I think that is what helped us get there.”
Pagdanganan won her matches against top seed UCLA and Stanford, but lost to Alabama’s Cheyenne Knight, 4&2, in their highly-anticipated match Wednesday.
Arizona leaned on victories by Yu-Sang Hou, Sandra Nordaas and Haley Moore as the Wildcats earned their third national title.
The victory earned Arizona a spot in the Marathon Classic to be played on July 12-15 at the Highland Meadows Golf Club in Ohio.
Arizona coach Lora Ianello opted to give the spot to Pagdanganan. “She deserves it,” Ianello said.
After playing for Gonzaga for two years, Pagdanganan joined Arizona whose products include LPGA greats Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa.
“We thought that Bianca would be better off with Arizona,” said Sam, Pagdanganan’s father.
Pagdanganan won the Philippine Ladies Open last year with a record 16-under total at the Wack Wack West course.
A stint in the Asian Games in August in Indonesia awaits Pagdanganan.
“We already received a letter from the golf association informing us about Bianca’s participation in the Asian Games,” said Sam.
The elder Pagdanganan said Bianca will come home to rest and prepare for her LPGA stint.
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