By Ritchel Mendiola and Caroline Giovanie
FILIPINA Japanese golfer Yuka Saso has made history as the first player from the Philippines to win a golf major.
Saso, 19, claimed victory at the 76th U.S. Women’s Open golf championship at the Olympic Club in San Francisco on Sunday, June 6.
“My dream was to be world No. 1 and win the U.S. Open, but I wasn’t thinking I would hold this trophy this week,” Saso said during the press conference following her win.
After bouncing back from the two double bogeys in her first three holes, the Filipina teen triumphantly outlasted Japanese Nasa Hataoka in a sudden-death playoff in the final round.
Saso mentioned the two early double bogeys which seemed to doom her chances.
“I was actually upset,” she admitted about her poor start.
“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 added. “And to trust the process.”
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She also thanked Filipinos for rooting for her during the championship.
“I’m just thankful that there’s so many people in the Philippines cheering for me,” Saso said. “I don’t know how to thank them. They gave me so much energy. I want to say thank you to everyone.”
The Filipina golfer managed to shake off the two early double bogeys and made back-to-back birdies and a par in the last three holes to end the fourth round with a 73, forcing a two-hole aggregate playoff on No. 9 and 18 with Hataoka for the U.S. Open Crown.
“I just don’t want to be selfish,” Saso said. “Everyone here is a great player. If it’s their time, it’s their time, if it’s my time, it’s my time. I just want to cheer everybody.”
Saso also experienced a physical inconvenience during the last few holes.
“After 18, I felt my stomach a little, it hurts, I don’t know why,” Saso said. “But I ate a banana and it feels better now.”
Meanwhile, American Lexi Thompson, who held a one-shot lead over Saso on Saturday, June 5, finished third after going 4-over par in the final round.
With her victory, Saso tied with South Korean Park In-bee as the youngest winners in the championship’s history at 19 years, 11 months and 17 days. She also earned her LPGA tour membership.
In order to develop her golfing career, Saso’s family traveled back and forth between the Philippines and the U.S.
“When I turned nine, I told my parents I wanted to play golf. And I had to move back to the Philippines with my dad. My dad goes back and forth with my brothers and sisters. I think that’s the biggest sacrifice they did. All I have now is to thank them. I wouldn’t be here without them,” she said.
She also credits watching YouTube clips of Rory Mcllroy winning his first major at the U.S. Open in 2011, and said she patterned her swing after him.
Saso became pro in 2019 after meriting her LPGA card, and has won two titles on the Japanese tour.
The 76th edition of the U.S. Women’s Open marked the first time that it has been played at the hilly and challenging Olympic Club, the oceanside course that has hosted five men’s U.S. Opens.
Next year’s tournament will be played at Pine Needles Golf Club in North Carolina before it returns to California at Pebble Beach in 2023.