Q-Series has hit its midpoint, four rounds down, four to go. The halfway point is where most people start to hit a slump; think midday siestas and Wednesdays. Understandably, Sunday’s fourth-round play saw higher scores and was more sluggish for some.
But not for Bianca Pagdanganan, she waited until Sunday to turn in her best round yet. The 25-year-old shot a 5-under 67 to end the first week of Q-Series at T17 and just four shots back of the lead at 10-under. The highlight of her day was a phenomenal birdie-eagle-birdie stretch on holes 5, 6, 7 that allowed her to make the turn in 30.
“It’s kind of crazy, you just feel calm when you’re at that point of your game,” Pagdanganan said of her play on the front-nine. “There is a sense of calmness and just confidence when you’re heading into those holes. It’s like you’re on a different level of Zen. You feel good about every part of your game, and you think everything is going to go well, that's what it felt like.”
But if you knew anything about Pagdanganan’s short career, it would have been easy to see this coming. The youngster performs extremely well under pressure, having successfully made it through all three stages of Q-School in 2019 and finishing T10 at Q-Series in 2021.
“I seem to play well under stress and pressure, but obviously I don't want to be doing that to myself all the time,” Pagdanganan said of her success in Q-School, one of the most stressful events in women’s golf. “When I have to rise to the occasion, I get it done. That's pretty much it for what I've been doing. Try to stay cool, calm, collected. It's a lot of golf and it just takes a toll on you mentally and physically.”
Pagdanganan first earned LPGA Tour status in 2019 when she breezed through Q-School just after graduating from the University of Arizona. Though her rookie season was the abridged 2020 season, she finished at No. 60 on the money list and earned entry into the CME Group Tour Championship.
Unfortunately, an injury plagued Pagdanganan during the tail-end of her sophomore season on tour and she finished at No. 125 on the money list, forcing a return to Q-Series in 2021. Luckily, she had recovered enough to card a T10 finish and retain her status.
With such a strong showing at Q-Series, Pagdanganan hoped to take some momentum with her into 2022. But a wrist injury early in the season set her back and with just eight made cuts in 18 starts, she dropped her to No. 124 on the money list. Now, Pagdanganan has returned to the Q-Series much wiser and thoroughly battled-tested.
“It really sucked because I ended Q-Series last year in a pretty good position and I knew I was going to get into a couple events,” Pagdanganan reflected. “It was hard starting off with an injury. It takes a toll on you mentally because you know you’re not 100%. One thing that I learned was to really listen to your body, don't force your way into playing through things.
“With how much golf you play within a year it’s so important for to you listen to your body. I learned a lot from the past year. I’m just beginning my career, so it’s one thing to take (with me) for the years to come.”
With so much Q-Series experience, Pagdanganan says she can better manage the stress that comes with the event. The most important part of Pagdanganan’s strategy is to stay calm throughout the next week and, hopefully, reach the same level of Zen she found on Sunday.
“I try to stay level throughout the rounds,” Pagdanganan explained. “It's easy to get carried away, so I try to stay level, not too high and not too low. Obviously celebrate the good shots, but don't beat yourself up with the bad shots. That helps because when you go through the extremes, it just takes a lot out of you, and with that much golf to play it's so important to save your energy and just kind of stay calm.”
Pagdanganan is two-for-two at Q-Series so far and if she’s just starting to heat up halfway through, it seems like she’s bound to go three-for-three.