SEA Games: PH’s Pagdanganan wins gold in women’s golf
TARLAC–Playing steadily in the stretch when everything was on the line, Bianca Pagdanganan checked an alarming skid to salvage a one-under-par 71 and capture ladies’ golf individual gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian Games by three strokes over a faltering Thai on Friday.
The Filipinos also kept their chance of completing a golden double when team play shifts to match at tree-lined Luisita Golf Club here.
With a big crowd following the final flight, Pagdanganan finished with a 54-hole 199 total after playing the final three holes at three-under, the exact difference between gold and silver as Thailand’s Kan Bunnabodee blew her chance with a double bogey-bogey finish for a 72.
Pimnipa Panthong, another Thai who gave chase the whole day, also fired a 71 and finished another stroke back for the bronze medal.
It was a sweet victory for Pagdanganan, who had to play as Yuka Saso’s chief backup last year in the Asian Games in Jakarta where she won the bronze medal and helped in winning the country’s first-ever team gold there.
She also came into this tournament not given much of a chance, with the third Thai in the field, world No. 1 amateur Atthaya Thitikul, regarded as the solid favorite after coming from several top-tier events in Europe and the United States.
“It was a really tough day,” the 22-year-old Pagdanganan, who will play full time in the LPGA starting next year, said. “I really didn’t hit shots as good as I did yesterday but I did come out good in the last few holes.”
Playing the closing holes really well was the key for the Filipino ace, and in Bunnabodee’s case, her undoing, with the Thai driving to the rough from both the 17th and 18th tees where she failed to salvage par both times.
Holding the lead at the end of each of the first two rounds, Pagdanganan signed for a double bogey 7 on the 16th–the final group’s seventh hole–before Bunnabodee picked up three shots in a four-hole stretch from No. 1 to turn the heat to its highest.
The Thai eased out front when Pagdanganan bogeyed the 68th hole–the par-3 6th–as the crowd stood silent for a while.
But when Bunnabodee was skidding, the Filipino was brilliant with Pagdanganan finding the 72nd green in two for an easy birdie that touched off a raucous celebration in the gallery, similar to what the reaction was from a Filipino crowd in Jakarta last year where they watched Saso drain an eagle putt from the fringe to complete the sweep for the women.
“A was surprised that a lot of people watched,” Pagdanganan said. “And I appreciate that. Even my teammates were there and they all made me feel like we won as one.”
Rookie Abegail Arevalo counted for the first time with a 71, a crucial score as the Philippines sewed up No. 1 ranking for the team match play after edging Thailand, 423-424.
Play shifts to match for the final two days were, in the case of the women, the top two seeds advanced directly to the semifinals Saturday afternoon where No. 1 will collide with the winner of the No. 3 vs No. 6 match and No. 2 battles the survivor of No. 4 vs No. 5.
Countries will field just two players in two matches, with the first to win 1.5 points, one-point being a win, winning the pairing. The gold medal match is slated Sunday.