MANILA, Philippines -- Even during one of the most challenging periods in the history of Philippine sports, young golfer Yuka Saso still found a way to stand out and deliver.
The 19-year-old Saso, who hails from San Ildefonso, Bulacan, didn't miss a beat when she turned pro in 2020, following a remarkable amateur career highlighted by a double gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games.
Two straight titles in the rich Japan LPGA and a strong 13th place finish in the US Open in her first crack at a major LPGA championship capped Saso's rookie season that gave Philippine sports the kick it needed in these trying times.
After giving Filipinos something to cheer for even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Saso will be recognized as the 2020 Athlete of the Year by the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) during its Awards Night on March 27.
The young golfer leads a compact list of awardees that will be honored by the country's oldest media organization led by its President Tito S. Talao of the Manila Bulletin during the virtual event.
This is Saso's second time in the last three years to win the Athlete of the Year honor, but her first as an individual awardee. In 2018, she shared the honor with fellow golfers Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go, along with weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz after they all won gold medals in the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Saso made heads turn when she decided to turn pro last year, scoring back-to-back triumphs in the Japan LPGA by topping the NEC Karuizawa Championship and the Nitori Ladies Golf Tournament, respectively.
Before the year ended, Saso showed she could compete side by side with the best of the world following a 13th place finish in the women's US Open won by South Korea's Kim A-Lim.
Entering 2021, Saso is ranked 45th in the world and has already amassed a total of P50-M in earnings after her rookie season.
Aside from the Athlete of the year, the PSA will also recognize the Executive of the Year and the National Sports Association of the Year, and will hand out the President's and the Lifetime Achievement Awards. Major honorees in various sports as well as citations and recognitions are likewise included in the honor roll.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: