Who Is Bianca Pagdanganan, the Filipino Golfer With a Strong Shot at a Medal?
The Olympic tournament for women’s golf has finally begun, and Filipino golfers Bianca Pagdanganan and Yuka Saso are strong bets for an Olympic medal. The 20-year-old Saso was crowned the champion of the U.S. Women’s Open held at San Francisco earlier this year, the first Filipino golfer to ever achieve such a feat. This makes her a strong contender for the gold, but currently among the leaders of the pack of 60 in the first round of women’s golf is Bianca Pagdanganan, a 23-year-old U.S.-based golfer who concluded the first round in the top 10.
She’s now tied for seventh place with two-under-par 69 (five birdies, 10 pars, and three bogeys). She had a strong start at the beginning of the round, ranking first before others caught up. Here’s what you need to know about the Olympic golfer who still has three more rounds to bag a medal:
1| She studied at Assumption Antipolo.
Born and raised in the Philippines, Pagdanganan graduated from Assumption Antipolo in 2015 before she went on to study in the U.S. for college.
2| She graduated from the University of Arizona.
Pagdanganan graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona where she played on the Arizona Wildcats golf team. Before Arizona, she studied at Gonzaga University in Washington for two years where she also played on the school’s golf team. Her transfer to Arizona was in part influenced by the warmer weather, as that meant she could play golf outdoors. While at Arizona, Bianca was nicknamed "The Unicorn" for her impressive golf skills, which helped the Wildcats win the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championships.
3| Her father got her into the sport.
Like Yuka Saso, Pagdanganan’s father got her into golf at a young age. The golfer grew up in the Philippines, only moving to the U.S. for college, but as a child, her father would let her tag along when he went golfing on weekends. While at the driving range, the young Pagdanganan would hit a few golf balls around and eventually develop a talent for the sport.
4| She’s backed by MVP Sports Foundation and Razon’s ICTSI.
Bianca is backed by two Filipino tycoons: PLDT’s Manny V. Pangilinan through the MVP Sports Foundation and Enrique Razon through ICTSI.
5| Filipino golfer Jennifer Rosales is her golf hero.
Fellow Filipino professional golfer Jennifer Rosales is Pagdanganan’s golfing hero. The 42-year-old has been playing professionally for over 20 years and is known as the first Filipino to win the LPGA Tour after bagging first place at the 2000 Chick-fil-A Charity Championship.
6| She used to practice at Camp Aguinaldo.
Growing up in Quezon City, Rosales used to frequent Camp Aguinaldo with her father when she was young. She donated to the tee boys and girls at Camp Aguinaldo at the height of quarantine as many of them have known her since childhood.
7| She’s good friends with Yuka.
Yuka and Bianca have frequently competed in the same tours throughout the years, and are currently the only golfers representing the Philippines in the women’s event. They shared this brief video earlier today on the LPGA account.
8| She’s only been a professional golfer for two years.
It was during her collegiate career that she was discovered and scouted. She’s been competing as an amateur for years, bagging first place in the women’s team event during the Asian Games in 2018, as well as third place in the individual stroke play. Pagdanganan officially turned professional in January 2020 after earning her LPGA Tour card and has been consistently competing in LPGA Tours for two years.
9| She’s an advocate for women in sports.
Pay disparity between genders is a contentious topic in sports, but Pagdanganan isn’t afraid to discuss it. To Tatler Philippines, she shared how “breaking down these barriers goes beyond matching up to the skills of a guy. There are other barriers that persist, like the gender pay gap, and the level of exposure or attention given not just to women's golf but to women's sports in general."
10| She once donated all of her prize money.
At the 2018 Asian Games, Saso, Pagdanganan, and Lois Kaye Go together won a total of P16.8 million after raking in the medals and monetary bonuses in the women’s golf events. Pagdanganan won bronze at the solo event and gold in the team event alongside Saso and Go. However, Saso and Pagdanganan played in the U.S. NCAA, which has strict rules regarding financial rewards for amateur players. As such, they were not allowed to accept the giant cash pool, but they did decide to donate it to the national golf program to support young Filipino golfers.
"It was really, for me, never about the money,” said Pagdanganan to the Philippine Star. “Growing up, representing the country was really my biggest dream and goal. So I felt great to be able to do that."
She’s doing just that as she competes for a prized medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Bianca still has three more rounds to go before the winners are announced, so fingers crossed for her upcoming games.
How does Olympic golf work?
Unlike the Professional Golf Association (PGA) or Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), the golf tournaments at the Olympics will not eliminate the low-ranking players throughout the tournament. Instead, all 60 Olympic golfers will play all four rounds of the 72-hole individual stroke play event. The top three players will receive a medal, and if there’s a tie, there will be a three-hole playoff.