When the Arizona women’s golf program said goodbye to star seniors Haley Moore and Bianca Pagdanganan this past spring, two key questions arose.
How would head coach Laura Ianello and her team perform in their first year without two of the most successful golfers in program history? And how long would it take for Moore and Pagdanganan to earn their LPGA cards?
Both of those questions were answered this past week.
The Wildcats affirmed their presence as one of the nation’s elite programs with a third-place finish in the exclusive East Lake Cup. Despite missing junior Yu-Sang Hou, Arizona finished second of four teams in stroke play before beating defending national champion Duke in the match play consolation round.
Hou, the older sister of standout freshman Vivian, was overseas competing in the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA Tournament.
Simultaneously, Moore and Pagdanganan pursued their lifelong ambitions of joining the LPGA. The two participated in the final stage of the Q-Series, a two-week, 144-hole “Race for the Cards” that awards 45 rookies a spot on the Tour.
Moore easily made the cut, tying for 11th at +2. Her parents, both repping Arizona apparel, were there to celebrate the moment with their daughter.
Pagdanganan survived a disastrous opening few rounds to squeeze in for a tie of 38th at +4. Pagdanganan posted the lowest round of the entire event with an eight-under in round six (of eight), which ultimately put her through.
Lindsey Weaver, a former All-Pac-12 First-Team member who played at Arizona from 2013-2016, also earned her LPGA card after finishing fifth at -9. The result had to feel extra sweet for Weaver, a Scottsdale native, given that she fell short of an LPGA card in her past efforts.
Arizona’s success across the golf landscape must feel gratifying for Ianello, who has turned the program into a powerhouse that attracts some of the top young talent across the world.
Of the nine Wildcats on the 2019-20 roster, six hail from countries outside the United States.
The Hou sisters are joined by their fellow Taiwanese teammate, sophomore Ya Chun Chang. junior Sandra Nordaas, from Norway, is one of three Europeans along with junior Hollie Muse of England and freshman Gile Bite Starkute of Lithuania.
Six golfers are new additions to the roster; there are five freshmen along with Muse, who transferred from Daytona State College.
So much inexperience would suggest a rebuilding period for a program coming off two straight top-four appearances at the NCAA Championships.
However, the Wildcats look to be on track for another deep run.
Arizona held its own in the East Lake Cup, which features the reigning four NCAA semifinalists. The Wildcats started three freshmen along with Nordaas and Chang.
Therese Warner led the Wildcats with a round of two-under (3rd overall), while Vivan Hou was right behind her at one-under (t-4th overall).
Arizona fell to Wake Forest in the semifinals of match play, earning wins from Hou and Chang. The Wildcats then stunned Duke with victories from Warner, Chang, and Hou.
Starkute’s two match losses both came down to the final few holes. A member of the Lithuanian national team, Starkute could see plenty of action as a freshman with the results she’s producing.
Arizona now travels to Kailua Kona, Hawaii, where it’ll look to defend its Pac-12 Preview title. Last year, Yu-Sang Hou tied for first in the tournament to guide the Wildcats to a one-stroke lead over Cal.
Yu-Sang and sister Vivian Hou will lead Arizona’s five-member delegation that also includes Muse, Chang, and Warner.
Yu-Sang and Vivan Hou boast a team-best 70.50 round average. Their play is garnering national attention. The Hou sisters were both named to the latest Annika Award watch list, named after former Arizona star Annika Sorenstam. The award is given to the most outstanding women’s collegiate golfer.
As the Wildcats begin their final tournament of the fall and turn their focus towards another national title next spring, a new question has entered the fold.
How is Ianello going to make room with so much young talent on one roster?
It’s a question that any coach would love to be asked.