Golden Girl Saso Seeks More Success

Yuka Saso will be among the favourites at this month’s Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship. Picture by Paul Lakatos/R&A.

Hokota, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan: Asian Games individual gold medallist Yuka Saso will be looking to extend her geographical domination when she tees-off at this month’s Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP).

The talented 17-year-old from the Philippines lost out to Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul after a four-way, sudden-death play-off in the inaugural WAAP at Singapore’s Sentosa Golf Club.

But Saso made up for that disappointment by claiming the individual gold medal in golf at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta and also combined with team-mates Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go to win the team gold.

World number 72 Pagdanganan, who secured the individual bronze medal in the quadrennial Asiad, will also be a part of the Philippines’ contingent at The Royal Golf Club from April 25-28, along with Abegail Arevalo, Clare Legaspi, Mikhaela Denise Fortuna and Francesca Bernice Olivares Llas.

Saso has been in terrific form of late, having finished outside the top-four only once in her last seven starts, dating back to last November. She heads to the second edition of the WAAP as the third highest-ranked player in the field at world number 30.

“I am very proud of what we did at the Asian Games, especially with Bianca and Lois. We really had fun out there. The Asian Games taught me so many things,” said Saso, who has committed to the Georgia Bulldogs and plans to pursue a college golf career in the United States before turning professional.

“Even though I did not win last year’s WAAP, it was great fun, too. I felt that I learned a lot. I don’t really think about getting so close (to the title), and neither is the tied second place finish any extra motivation for me to do better this year. There were plenty of positives to take from that result.

“I am really looking forward to playing the WAAP in Japan. We know it is such a prestigious championship. I just want to enjoy every moment of being there.”

As well as successfully defending her Philippine Ladies Open title in February, Saso has played solidly on the Japan LPGA Tour.

“I’m not sure if I am playing my best golf at the moment but I’m happy with the way I’m playing. Of course, there’s still a lot of things that I need to work on, but what matters to me is I’m having fun,” said Saso, who made four cuts in the five professional events she played in 2018.

“I am not sure if playing professional tournaments in Japan will help with my preparations for the WAAP. But I’m pretty certain the Royal Golf Club will be a big step for me and I will have lots of questions regarding the golf course when I am there.”

The champion in Japan will earn a spot in two of the five women’s Majors – the AIG Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship. She will also receive an invite to the 2020 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship has been developed by The R&A and Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) to unearth emerging talent and provide a pathway for Asia’s elite women amateurs to emerge on the international stage.

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