Yuka Saso had a bit of a homecourt advantage en route to winning the 76th U.S. Women's Open, Sunday at the Olympic Club in San Francisco (early Monday in Manila).
A sizable Filipino contingent watched as the 19-year-old Saso nailed a 10-foot birdie putt to clinch the victory, in the process becoming the first golfer from the Philippines -- male or female -- to win a major.
She outlasted Japan's Nasa Hataoka in the sudden death playoff, after having recovered from a poor start to the last round wherein she had two double bogeys.
Afterward, she expressed her gratitude to Filipinos who watched her achieve history.
"Sobrang malaki po 'yung pasasalamat ko sa kanilang lahat sa pagpunta po dito. Alam ko na hindi po madali kumuha ng tickets, madaming tao, kailangan po nila makipag-siksikan," she said. "Maraming salamat po. Ang dami niyo pong binigay sa akin na energy, salamat po."
"There's so many people holding up Philippines flags, and it's really big. It made me really happy," she also said.
Saso's feat was also widely celebrated in the Philippines, and she also thanked those who have showered her with support throughout the whole tournament.
A double gold medalist in the 2018 Asian Games, Saso had seized a first-round lead before falling to second heading into Sunday's last round. She showed remarkable poise, however, in coming away with the victory.
"I don't know what's happening in the Philippines right now, but I'm just thankful that there's so many people in the Philippines cheering for me," said Saso, who in 2020 was named Athlete of the Year by the Philippine Sportswriters Association.
"I don't know how to thank them. They gave me so much energy. I want to say thank you to everyone," she said.
Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque congratulated Saso for "bringing honor to the Philippines."
"She is indeed the pride and glory of our country. We are all proud of you. Congratulations," he said in a statement.
Vice President Leni Robredo thanked Saso "for making history."
"Iba talaga ang husay at puso ng kabataang Pinoy... Excited kami na mag-cheer para sa ’yo sa mas marami pang laban, panalo at pangarap," she said on Twitter.
(The excellence and heart of the Filipino youth are different. We are excited to cheer for you in more fights, triumphs, and dreams.)