At one point during the presentation ceremony of the Harton S. Semple trophy, Filipino-Japanese Yuka Saso wiped her tears as she tried not to be too emotional on her breakthrough win in the LPGA Tour by bagging the US Women’s Open championship.
Saso won in style and in record fashion, coming back from two double bogeys, fought her way back to tie the lead at the end of regulation play, and triumphed in a three-hole playoff against Nasa Hataoka of Japan for the title.
She was the first Filipino to win the US Women’s Open, and matched the record of Park In-bee of South Korea as the youngest winner in the championship’s history at 19 years, 11 months and 17 days.
As she celebrated, it all came back to Saso the sacrifices her parents made for to be in this position – the country’s latest sports hero.
“Ang dami nilang sinakripisyo para sa akin,” said Saso, referring to her Japanese father Masakazu Saso and Filipina mother Fritzie. “I hope they still can support me throughout my career.”
Born in San Ildefonso, Bulacan, Saso’s family left Manila to live in Japan when she was four years old. It was in Japan when her father introduced Saso to the game of golf.
By the time when Saso was 10 years old, she was already winning junior golf championships, and in 2014, she won her first international title when she ruled the Saba International Junior Masters.
Two years later, Saso captured the World Junior Girl’s Championship via a playoff victory against American Jennifer Chang at the Mississaugua Golf & Country Club in Ontario, Canada.
During the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, Saso capped her impressive amateur career by winning two gold medals – the individual gold medal and team gold medal with Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go.
Saso said that from the time her father started to teach her the game of golf, to the countless hours they have spent at the driving range and at the golf course, it was all fun for them.
“I’m not gonna say that we’ve been through a lot… we’re having fun and we love the game of golf,” said Saso. “Hindi ko sasabihin na nagpaka-hirap kami, or something… we just enjoyed our life.”
“Sobrang laki po ng tulong ng papa ko, pero marami din pong tumulong sa akin maliban sa pamilya ko. Professional golfers,” added Saso, who mentioned pro golfer Miguel Tabuena among those who really helped her improve her game.
“There are a lot of people who supported me.”
Saso, who is being backed by businessman and golf godfather Enrique Razon of ICTSI, said that winning the US Women’s Open is just a start for her, her family and the Philippines.
“This is not the end of my journey. It’s a happy day, a great day, but tomorrow, maybe it’s another day. We’re going to move on, focus on my next tournament. I still have to keep on working,” Saso said.