The “Stuck at Home With” series profiles players, caddies and staff in the women’s game who are making the most of an unprecedented break in tour life due to the coronavirus pandemic. New stories will be posted every Tuesday and Thursday.
When she envisioned her rookie year on the LPGA, Bianca Pagdanganan imagined playing in everything she could get into. It was supposed to be a year of learning the whole process, from Monday qualifiers on up.
And it started out that way. Pagdanganan and her dad hopped a plane to Florida in January (she had to attend rookie orientation anyway) then to Australia the next month to try to Monday qualify for the first events on the LPGA calendar. She came up short each time. With back-to-back events Down Under, Pagdanganan ended up staying two weeks.
“When I flew to Australia, my mindset was just play golf,” she said of a last-minute decision. “I spent most of the time just practicing over there. Golf in Australia is pretty different. The course layouts I wanted to get to know and get a good feel what these courses are like.”
Pagdanganan remains stuck on the proverbial Monday. The season stalled out weeks before the tour ever returned stateside. Pagdanganan slipped a few spots down the LPGA Q-Series leaderboard in November with a final-round 78, which affected her priority status to start the season. She figured the first event she might have been able to get in would be April’s Lotte Championship in Hawaii.
The 22-year-old gushes about her 2018 Marathon Classic experience as an amateur, to date her only LPGA start. She played the final round alongside Stacy Lewis and spent the day pinching herself. Pagdanganan finished T-67.
“I love looking back at that experience,” she said of the whole week. “I learned so much about myself as a player and the things I can further improve on with regard to my game.”
She’s still addressing those things in the practice she’s able to do at home, but like the rest of us, Pagdanganan finds herself running out of things to do as this break stretches on. In the time off, Pagdanganan has also committed to a workout program so she’ll be prepared when golf returns. She’s currently holed up in San Diego with a family friend and had been playing out of Maderas Golf Club.
“I think it’s been over a month since I last saw the golf course,” she said. “I’m still able to practice here. In our backyard, I have a makeshift driving range. I have a mat, I hit to a net obviously. I have a swing caddie so that’s nice when I practice. I’m lucky enough to have space in my backyard to swing so at least I don’t really lose my rhythm and all that.”
Pagdanganan is a big movie buff but has burned through much of Netflix. Calligraphy has always activated her creative side, so armed with a set of brush pens, she’s has been working on her penmanship. It’s a stress reliever.
This strange break aside, Pagdanganan admits to missing her University of Arizona team – she would have missed them regardless of how her rookie year played out. Pagdanganan brought an infusion of energy (and talent) when she transferred to Arizona from Gonzaga in the fall of 2017. She won her first tournament out of the gate and sunk an all-time eagle putt to send her team to NCAA match play, which the Wildcats ultimately won.
She thrived as much in the mundane practice days as she did in those moments, though.
“I miss having people around when I practice. I enjoy practicing by myself but I still miss having those fun times when we’re on the golf course,” she said. “You get to do fun drills with them or you get to play games on the course.”
Pagdanganan realizes she now has a little more time to make a run at the Olympics. She didn’t think much about representing her native Philippines in the 2016 Games, but the idea really began to take hold in her final season at Arizona.
Pagdanganan remained amateur through December just to play in the Southeast Asian Games, where she won gold. She knew she needed to come out of the gate hot in 2020 for a shot at Tokyo. She figured LPGA membership would go a long way in that.
“It sucks that it got pushed back, I know a lot of people were looking forward to it,” she said. “But at the same time, I guess I have more time to actually prepare for it and give myself a better chance of getting in.”
The Olympic dream, at least, can dance another year.