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GOLF DOCTOR

Distance emerging among women golfers

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Three young LPGA professional women are re-writing the record books with their drivers.

The first (and longest) is Bianca Pagdanganan, who came within 18 inches of an average drive mark of 300 yards five weeks ago in the LPGA Drive On Championship at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Georgia.

Pagdanganan’s longest drive for the week came during her third round when she hit her tee shot on the par 5 18th hole 317 yards. When everyone else laid up she hit an iron to the green, making birdie.

Pagdanganan, now 23, was born and raised in the Philippines and played college golf at Arizona, helping the Wildcats win the 2018 NCAA Championship. Her golf coach at Arizona attributes her prodigious distance to “insanely” fast hips and use of the ground (right foot push-off) as keys to her power. Her driving distance this year has been an average 289.

Next is Maria Fassi, 22, who is averaging 282 in her LPGA starts this year. Earlier this year, four weeks prior to the LPGA season re-start, Fassi won the Cooper Communities NWA Classic, a Women’s All Pro Tour event.

Fassi, 5’ 9,” grew up in Mexico. She played four years as an Arkansas Razorback, where she was the 2019 NCAA individual champion. Her golf coach at Arkansas, Shauna Estes-Taylor, says of Fassi, “She only knew of one way to play – over-power everything.”

In case you’re wondering about the relative distance these women are hitting it, don’t be shocked. Recently, quintessentialgolf.com published these telling stats for male recreational golfers. Men with 10-19 handicap drove it an average of 216 yards; 19-28 handicappers drove 196 yards. By age, it was 40-50 at 221 yards and 50-60 212 yards. Women with 13 to 20 handicaps averaged 155 yards.

The LPGA player who has combined swing perfection and distance is 5’ 11” Anne van Dam, with a driving distance of 285 yards.

Although she learned to swing the driver as fast as she could starting at age nine at her home in the Netherlands, her swing today is as conventional as it gets.

According to Luke Kerr-Dineen, who wrote a bio on her last year on golf.com, van Dam represents “the product of years of training under the watchful eyes of a series of coaches who adamantly stressed the importance of good fundamentals.

Young van Dam was free to swing for the fences as long as she abided by the rules of grip, posture, stance and alignment.” A far different prescription from that of Bryson DeChambeau.

As a child prodigy, van Dam made the Dutch National Team when she was just nine years old. She won Dutch national championships in four different age groups: under nine, under 12, under 18 and under 21.

In 2018 van Dam became a viral sensation in the golf world when a simple video of her amazingly pure swing on Instagram clocked more than a million views.

World Golf Hall of Fame golfer Curtis Strange says van Dam has “one of the finest swings in golf.” And as the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee observes, “she may have the best swing in golf right now.” Before joining the LPGA, van Dam collected five Ladies European Tour wins.

Even though it’s early in these three golfing phenoms careers, none has won an official regular LPGA tour tournament. Distance nowadays is very important, but it isn’t everything. Pro players still have to play solid golf. Much shorter hitters who have won include Bronte Law (248 yards), Inbee Park (240 yards) and Lizette Salas (239 yards).

Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at docblanchard71@gmail.com.