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Former Arizona golfer Bianca Pagdanganan earns career-best third-place finish at The LPGA Drive On Championship

LPGA Drive On Championship - Final Round Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

As a young golfer with dreams of playing on the LPGA Tour, Bianca Pagdanganan found role models in stars Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa.

“They were definitely the top players when I was growing up,” Pagdanganan said Sunday.

Pagdanganan followed in Sorenstam and Ochoa’s footsteps by joining the Arizona women’s golf program as an internationally recruited athlete. (Pagdanganan transferred to UA from Gonzaga after two years in Spokane).

After an illustrious college career, Pagdanganan turned pro and made her debut on the LPGA Tour this year. Though only a rookie, Pagdanganan is poised to follow Sorenstam and Ochoa’s paths once more by joining the elite rank of professional women’s golfers.

On Sunday the Philippines native scored her best result yet on the Tour, placing third at The LPGA Drive Championship at Reynolds Lake Course in Greensboro, Georgia.

Pagdanganan shot a 68-67-69-70 and finished one stroke back of second and two strokes behind winner Ally McDonald.

“Honestly, today’s round was a little bit boring,” she told reporters. “I had 16 pars going into my last two holes, and pars are good, but they can be frustrating if you know you gave yourself a couple birdie chances.

“But overall I’m really happy with how I played and I love where my game is going, so hopefully I get to keep it up and continue having this mindset throughout the rest of the year. “

Pagdanganan, who turns 23 on Wednesday, tends to be modest in her self-assessment despite growing consensus that she is becoming one of the elite golfers on the Tour.

Pagdanganan leads the Tour in driving length with her tee-shots usually flying 30 yards farther than most of her competitors.

LPGA Managing Editor Steve Eubanks wrote Saturday that Pagdanganan could be the future of the league.

Veteran Tour golfer Karen Stupples told Eubanks, “She could definitely be a revolutionary figure in the women’s game. She’s got the personality. But she is also the only woman in the game with that kind of power (in her golf swing) who isn’t afraid to use it. Other players could hit it as far as she does, but they’re afraid to do it.”

For now, Pagdanganan is taking her success in stride.

“Being at this level and just being able to compete with the greatest players, it’s so much fun,” she said Sunday. “Like I say this a lot, but I really do get to live my dream. Like I probably — if you told me a couple years ago that I would be playing on the LPGA Tour and in this position in my rookie year I probably wouldn’t believe you.”