Expectations high on Saso, Pagdanganan

Published August 2, 2021, 8:01 PM

by Waylon Galvez

Yuka Saso, left, of the Philippines plays for several rounds with former World No. 1 and 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist Lydia Ko of New Zealand Monday, August 2 at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, Japan. (Photo from the National Golf Association of the Philippines (NGAP) Facebook page)

National Golf Association of the Philippines (NGAP) secretary-general Bones Floro said that the high expectation on Filipino golfers Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdangan in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is understandable.

After all, Saso made history last month as the first Filipina to capture the US Women’s Open championship while Pagdanganan is already among the long hitters in the US LPGA Tour.

Floro said the expectations come with the territory.

“We understand and appreciate everyone’s support and expectations,” said Floro in a message exchange with Manila Bulletin Monday, August 2. “It’s wonderful to feel our nation cheering for our Olympians.”

“It truly fuels and inspires them to represent and do their very best. Their goal is clear, medals and a great time getting them.”

Saso and Pagdanganan start their bid for podium finish as women’s golf competitions kick off with the first round Wednesday, August 4 at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, Japan.

The 23-year-old Pagdanganan tees off first at 7:52 in morning on Wednesday’s opening round with Ireland’s Leona Maguire and Matilda Castren of Finland.

On the other hand, the 20-year-old Saso tees off at 8:25 a.m. alongside fellow women’s major champions in Lexi Thompson of the USA (2014 ANA Inspiration) and Brooke Henderson of Canada (2016 PGA Women’s Championship).

Saso, a Filipino-Japanese who started her professional career at the Japan LPGA Tour and has won three titles a year ago, booked a spot as the No. 8 world ranked player and eighth ranked in the Tokyo Olympics list of players under the International Golf Federation (IGF).

Pagdanganan – No. 165 ranked player in the world – is the 44th golfer out of 60 that will vie for the gold medal.

Saso played with former world No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand – silver medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics – for several holes during the first day of practice round Monday, before Pagdanganan joined them for a few more holes.

Ko, a two-time majors champion, is in the same flight with Rio Olympics gold medalist and seven-time majors winner Inbee Park of South Korea and Rio Olympics bronze medal winner Shanshan Feng of China set to tee off at 8:41 a.m.

Floro said the two Filipino golfers are ready.

“Very good naman and practices nila. Both are ready and they’re excited to represent the Philippines,” said Floro, who was present when the two led the national women’s team to a gold medal finish – with Saso winning the individual gold medal – during the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

The national golf team hopes for a better performance after Juvic Pagunsan finished 55th out of 60 participants in the men’s category.