Filipino golfer Yuka Saso made history last Sunday when she won the US Women’s Open championship at the Olympic course in San Francisco, California. Born in San Ildefonso, Bulacan to a Filipina mother and a Japanese father, she tied the record set by 2016 Olympic gold medalist Imbee Park who won the same tournament in 2008 at exactly the same age of 19 years, 11 months and 17 days.
While holding dual citizenship, she has always represented the Philippines in international competition. She was a double gold winner in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and is now an odds-on contender for the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo this summer.
A sizable Filipino gallery cheered her extraordinary feat. After leading the tournament in the first two days, she yielded the initiative at the end of three rounds to American Lexi Thompson with whom she played in the final threesome, along with eventual amateur winner Megha Ganne.
She fell back by as many as five strokes going into the last nine holes and made a remarkable recovery that earned her a playoff spot. With cool precision, she played level with Japanese golfer Nasa Hitaoka in the first two playoff holes before scoring a birdie for the championship on the third ‘sudden-death’ hole.
Barely able to hold back tears of joy, she thanked her family, fans and sponsors for their unstinting support. On her golf cap was the logo of International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), the Filipino global port operations firm headed by Enrique Razon, Jr.
She followed the footsteps of Jennifer Rosales who became the first Filipina golfer to win on the US Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour at the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship in 2004. Rosales followed this up by also winning the first official tournament in 2005 at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay in Hawaii. Then Rosales teamed up with Dorothy Delasin to win the Women’s World Cup of Golf in 2008 over the South Korean tandem.
The Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) conferred on Yuka Saso an Athlete of the Year award after she won the gold medal at the 2016 World Junior Girls Championship team event. She turned professional in 2019 and scored back-to-back victories at the 2020 NEC Karuizawa 72 tournament and at the Nitori Ladies golf tournament.
More than the US$ 1 million winner’s check that she earned in her trail-blazing victory, she has placed the Philippines — and especially Filipino sportswomen — on the global sports map, stamping their world-class caliber in high-profile competition.
The sports commentator covering Yuka Saso’s victory mentioned that she comes from the Philippines, a country of 7,100 islands and about 100 golf courses. She beat a golfer from Japan who comes from a country with more than 2,500 golf courses. She also defeated many competitors from the United States which has more than 15,500 golf courses.
This is truly a remarkable achievement for a young Filipino athlete and an auspicious augury for a possible medal victory at the coming Tokyo Olympics.