MORONG, Bataan – With a huge lead and a brimful of confidence, Bianca Pagdanganan turned the final round of the rich Anvaya Cove Ladies Invitational into a victory walk, beating Thais PK Kongkraphan and Pakit Kawinpakorn by six on a closing 71 here Friday.
A muffed birdie putt from six feet on the 54th hole would’ve highlighted a triumphant campaign in her first tournament as a pro in the country but the slip proved just a trivial as the kind of fight her rivals had put up in hot, breezy conditions.
For she was in firm control from start to finish of the final round and didn’t lose grip of the big lead – six shots over Taiwanese No. 1 and former Univ. of Arizona teammate Ya-Chun Chang and Thai Pakin Kawinpakorn – she had built after a stirring eagle-aided 67 Thursday.
But more than the romp worth $18,000, the former LPGA Tour campaigner somewhat considered her victory as a big first step for the long trek back to the world’s premier ladies circuit.
“This victory is a big confidence-boost, makes me really excited over how the rest of the year would go,” said Pagdanganan, who dominated the $100,000 kickoff leg of this year’s Ladies Philippine Golf Tour and second leg of the LPGA of Taiwan Tour, emerging as the lone player to have put under-par rounds in all three days for a nine-under 207 total, including a first round 69, at one of the country’s demanding courses.
“It was a tough course, especially with all the challenges. I just stayed steady throughout my whole round and focused on the smaller details of my game. I don’t know, but it took a lot of patience out there with all the best players of each country in the field, They’re all just great golfers,” said Pagdanganan, who heads back to the US today (Saturday) to prime up for the Epson Tour start on March 3 for the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic in Winter Haven.
Kongkraphan, the eight-year LPGA veteran who seized control in the first round with a 68 but failed to match Pagdanganan’s second round charge and faltered with 75, bounced back with an eagle-spiked 70 but could only tie Kawinpakorn at second at 213. The latter birdied the last hole to match the champion’s one-under round.
They split the combined second and third prizes worth $19,500.