South-east Asians making waves in women's golf

Filipina Bianca Pagdanganan, who is in her maiden LPGA Tour season, has been among the front runners at the Women's PGA Championship. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Thai players atop the leaderboard at women's golf events is not an uncommon sight given that the country has produced the likes of former world No. 1 and two-time Major champion Ariya Jutanugarn as well as her sister Moriya, the 2013 LPGA Rookie of the Year.

But at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, the third Major of the year, Filipina Bianca Pagdanganan and first-round leader Kelly Tan of Malaysia have shown that other South-east Asians can be a force in the sport.

Pagdanganan, in her sixth LPGA start and first Major appearance, was fifth after Saturday's third round at Arnonimink Golf Club.

The 22-year-old carded a five-under 65 to equal the lowest round of the championship for the second straight day to be on three-under 207 - four strokes adrift of leader Kim Sei-young (67) of South Korea.

She said: "This is probably my first time where I've played two back-to-back rounds bogey-free, but it is definitely an achievement, especially on this course."

The world No. 712 is No. 1 on the Tour in driving distance. She averaged over 287 yards off the tee, nearly five yards more than the next longest driver, Mexican Maria Fassi, before yesterday's round.

"This week, definitely, especially on some of the longer par fours. I mean, I have longer irons in, which isn't really that bad, and maybe a few wedges on some of the par fours, so I'd definitely say it was an advantage for me this week," she told Golf Channel.

"But I obviously had to keep it on the fairway, which I kind of struggled with on the first round, but kind of figured it out for my last two rounds."

Despite opening with a 77, she recovered to make the 75-player cut to ensure that five South-east Asians featured over the weekend.

Tan (72) on Saturday slipped from joint-sixth to joint-11th after sharing the opening-round lead with American Brittany Lincicome, a two-time Major champion.

Ariya (70, 215), Moriya (72, 212) and compatriot Jasmine Suwannapura (70, 214) were tied-36th, tied-19th and tied-29th respectively.

Tan, who has four top-25 finishes this season, also started well at the previous Major - last month's ANA Inspiration.

She opened with a four-under 68 to be two strokes adrift of opening-round leader Nelly Korda at Mission Hills Country Club in California.

The 26-year-old eventually finished tied-37th - 14 strokes behind winner Lee Mi-rim of South Korea.

"I believe I am due to do something special," she told The Star during the ANA Inspiration.

"Malaysian golf deserves something special.

"Honestly, I'm really just enjoying playing golf right now. I am playing to win every tournament and I try to give myself a chance each week."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2020, with the headline South-east Asians making waves in women's golf. Subscribe