MANILA, Philippines -- Bianca Pagdanganan has shone at virtually every level that she has played in, and now, she hopes to take her game to another level when she competes at the Tokyo Olympics.
The 23-year-old is one of three Filipino golfers to qualify for the Summer Games, along with veteran Juvic Pagunsan and reigning U.S. Women's Open champion Yuka Saso. The Quezon City native placed 44th in the Olympic Golf Rankings at the end of the qualification period.
For Pagdanganan, to get to play in the Games will be a dream come true.
"It's always been a goal of mine to play in the Olympics," Pagdanganan told reporters in January 2021.
"For me, playing for the country is always one of the greatest things that golf has given me, or greatest opportunity," she also said. "Not everyone is given that chance."
"It's just different when you're playing for something bigger than yourself."
Pagdanganan was a highly accomplished amateur golfer, winning the Philippine Junior Amateur Open in 2014 prior to going to the United States for college. She played two years for Gonzaga University and later transferred to Arizona, where she helped the Wildcats win the NCAA championship in 2018.
Her superb performance in the NCAA was the start of what turned out to be a banner 2018 for the Filipina golfer. Pagdanganan joined Saso and Lois Kaye Go in the Asian Games, and together they claimed a massive victory for the Philippines, winning team gold in golf.
Saso would win the gold medal, while Pagdanganan also went home a double medalist as she secured the bronze.
"We hype each other up before every game," Pagdanganan would later say of herself and her teammates. "We just sing and dance and laugh."
A year later, she teamed up with Go again and together they dominated the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. Pagdanganan won the gold by three strokes, defeating Thailand's Kan Bunnabodee.
She turned professional in 2020, and was quick to turn heads because of her powerful drives. In her LPGA debut, she finished joint 28th, but her driving distance of close to 295 yards gained her plenty of attention.
In her first major, the Women's PGA Championship, Pagdanganan finished at joint ninth, and then came in third place in the LPGA Drive On Championship in Georgia in October -- her best finish so far in her career.
This year, Pagdanganan has yet to match her results from her solid rookie season; her best finish was joint 39th at the Pure Silk Championship in May. But it appears her momentum is shifting, after improved performances in the Volunteers of America Classic and the rain-shortened Marathon LPGA Classic earlier this month.
With their previous successes in international events, expectations will undoubtedly be high for Pagdanganan and the Philippine golf team in Tokyo. It's a challenge that the young golfer embraces.
"I think it's important to aim high, and I think that's possible," Pagdanganan had said previously, about possibly winning an Olympic gold in golf.
"I think seeing how we played throughout the years, the SEA Games, the Asian Games, I think we do have a good chance especially with the players that we have now in the moment," she added. "I think we have a good chance and that would be pretty cool if golf can give us a gold medal."
Pagdanganan and Saso will compete at the Kasumigaseki Country Club on August 4 to 7.
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