LPGA Tour-bound Bianca Pagdanganan of the Philippines snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, pouncing on Thai Kan Bunnabodee’s late mishap to turn a one-stroke deficit in the last two holes into a rousing three-shot triumph Friday and bag the individual gold in the 30th SEA Games golf competitions at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac.
Pagdanganan, the Asian Games bronze medalist, lost a two-stroke lead in the face of Bunnabodee’s fiery charge in the last nine holes at the front and fell by one with a costly bogey on the par-3 No. 6. But it was the Thai who cracked in a pressure-packed finish as she double bogeyed the par-4 No. 8 that enabled Pagdanganan to regain control with a routine par and the Filipina ace completed her romp with a kind of finish that wins big-time championships.
The Thai went for broke on the closing par-5 ninth in a desperate attempt to score a birdie and possibly force a playoff but paid dearly for it as she hit it into the rough twice and ended up with a bogey instead for a 72.
Pagdanganan kept her poise and calmly sank a birdie from an eagle-putt distance for a two-shot swing as she closed out with a 71 that capped her run of under-par scores that included a 70 and a 68 for a 54-hole total of seven-under 209.
“I feel very happy to see my teammates on the final hole watching,” Pagdanganan said after delivering the first SEA Games golf gold for Team PHI since Princess Superal dominated the 2013 Games in Myanmar. “I felt like we won as a team.”
While Pagdanganan basked in glory, Bunnabodee rued her poor finish that marred what could’ve been a great comeback against the Filipina top gun. She settled for silver with a 212 while compatriot Pimpina Panthong took the bronze with a 213 after a 71.
Like Pagdanganan, Singapore’s James Leow foiled the Thais in men’s individual play, firing a stirring bogey-free seven-under 65 to snare the gold with a 203 total. Tanapat Pichaikool, who led after 36 holes, failed to match Leow’s hot 33 start with a 36, carded a 68 and lost by one with a 204 for silver while another Thai, Nopparat Panichphol, bagged the bronze with a 205 also after a 68.
The Philippines and Thailand will take a bye in the first round in women’s match play with the No. 3 Malaysia (437) clashing with No. 6 Vietnam (499) and No. 4 Indonesia (440) taking on No. 5 Singapore (454) with the winners facing the top two teams. The hosts emerged as the top seed with 423 with the Thais finishing with 424.