MANILA, Philippines -- Yuka Saso's historic triumph in the 76th U.S. Women's Open brought "so much joy and honor" to the country, the National Golf Association of the Philippines (NGAP) said on Monday morning.
The 19-year-old Saso is the first golfer from the Philippines to win a major, after beating Japan's Nasa Hataoka in a sudden death playoff at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
In its congratulatory message to Saso, the NGAP said they are "very happy for the new champion and proud of everything that she has achieved so far in her young career."
Saso had already made history for the Philippines when she won both individual and team gold in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, where she played with Bianca Pagdanganan and LK Go. In November 2019, she turned professional and has already racked up two victories in the LPGA of Japan Tour.
But her triumph in the U.S. Women's Open is by far her biggest achievement, and one that put Philippine golf on the map as well.
"The first Filipino player and, at 19, tied for the youngest ever to win the women's game's oldest major, Yuka has earned this feat with her amazing talent, determination, and grace under pressure," NGAP said.
"That she has brought so much joy and honor to our golf community and the country at a most challenging time truly makes her triumph all the more special."
Saso was in second place heading into the final round, and looked as though she was fading after two early double bogeys.
"Nag-dalawang double bogey po ako and medyo nainis po ako," she admitted afterward. "Pero kinausap po ako ng caddie ko, and sabi niya, marami pang butas. And, just keep trusting myself."
"And, 'yun po 'yung nakatulong sa akin so maraming salamat po."
Hataoka made a late charge with three birdies on her last six holes but Saso outplayed her in the three playoff holes, including the last one where the Filipina teenager sank a 10-foot birdie putt.
NGAP also congratulated Saso's family and team, while thanking the ICTSI and its chairman Ricky Razon for their sponsorship of Saso as well as Philippine golf in general.
"Every champion needs a solid community to draw strength and inspiration from, especially when the going gets tough," the federation said.
"We were delighted to see the contingent of Filipino fans and friends cheering Yuka on every step of the way until she lifted the Harton S. Semple trophy."
"Again, congratulations and thank you, Yuka! The women's golf game just got even more exciting, and we look forward to seeing you lead it to even greater heights."