It was a historic moment for the Philippines as 19-year-old Pinay golfer Yuka Saso beat Japan’s Nasa Hataoka in the 76th U.S. Women’s Open golf championship.
Saso’s Filipino supporters proudly raised the Philippine flag at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, a show of support that, according to the athlete, gave her the energy to win the coveted crown.
The teenage golfer was admittedly upset about her performance during the early rounds, which seemed to dim her chances in winning. But she came back stronger in the succeeding rounds, eventually prevailing in the major golfing championship.
“What a game today!” says golfer and gallery owner Isa Lorenzo who flew to San Francisco to support the country’s young golf star. “We thought Yuka’s back-to-back double bogeys were the end. But she hung in there. Super strong last three holes. Birdie birdie par. Momentum was on her side.”
Saso also owes it to her caddie for giving her the much-needed boost during the playoffs. “My caddie talked to me and said there are still many holes to go and to keep doing what I’ve been doing the past few days,” she shares. “And to trust the process.”
Born in the Philippines, the teenage golf sensation admitted in an interview with olympic.com that the sport was all she had when their family moved to Japan when she was about four years old. Saso has a Filipino mother and a Japanese father.
Since she couldn’t speak Japanese and didn’t have any friends at the time, his father Masakazu Saso would bring her to the golf course. This would spark her eventual interest in the sport. Since then, watching golf videos and playing occupied much of her time such that at age 9 she was sure what she wanted to be—a professional golfer like four-time men’s major champion Rory Mcllroy.
Saso’s father knew his kid has a bright future in the sport so he brought her back to the Philippines so Yuka could home-school and pursue her dream of becoming a professional golf player. She did turn pro in 2019, after earning her Japan LPGA card. She also won two gold medals for the country at the 2018 Asian Games, one in the individual event and another in the team event.
Saso admitted she was trying to copy her idol McIlroy’s swing earlier in the US Women’s Open. She was happy to share that the Northern Irishman posted encouraging words for her on social media. “Rory said, ‘Get that trophy,’ and I did. So thank you, Rory,” said Saso.
Saso is expected to play for the Philippines at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. As Lorenzo told ANCX, “A star is born.”