On Sunday, Japanese-Filipina teenager Yuka Saso won the U.S. Women’s Open. Saso beat Nasa Hataoka in a three-hole playoff after they finished the final round tied for the lead at 4-under. At 19 years, 11 months, and 17 days, she also tied Park Inbee as the youngest player to win the competition.
Saso is the first Filipino player, male or female, to win a golf major, and the third woman with a Japanese citizenship to win the US. Women’s Open.
“I was just glad and thankful that I was here and able to play in this tournament,” Saso told reporters after her win. “I’d like to thank my family. I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Saso will play for the Philippines at this summer’s 2021 Tokyo Olympics. She has already won two gold medals for her home country at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
“Yuka Saso is one of big bets this coming Olympics,” Philippine Olympic Committee President Abraham Tolentino said in a statement. “Her victory in the 76th U.S. Women’s Open solidifies her position in ladies’ golf and sends the strongest message that the young Filipina is ready for gold in the Tokyo Olympics.”
Although she was born in the Philippines, Saso moved to Japan when she was four, where she was unable to speak Japanese and, due to the language barrier, she struggled with making friends. Her father brought her to the driving range with him, and she began to find joy and fulfillment in golf.
Saso told her father she wanted to become a professional golfer when she was only nine years old. Her mother took her back to the Philippines and homeschooled her so that she could focus on developing and improving her golf skills every day.
Although golf is not popular by any means in the Philippines, Saso hopes that her victory will inspire young people to pursue a career in professional golfing.
“We just need a lot of juniors, young people to play.” Saso said. “I mean, I’m still young and I’m still dreaming. I hope there’s just more kids, younger golfers like me to play golf. I think that’s what we need.”
At only 19 years old, Yuka Saso is already breaking barriers in women’s golf and inspiring young athletes to follow in her footsteps. In addition to striving to bring attention to golf in the Philippines, Saso hopes to clinch the gold medal in the Tokoyo Olympics this summer. If there is one thing for certain, it is that the world has not seen the last of Yuka Saso, as her career in golfing is only beginning.
Despite her monumental U.S. Women’s Open win, Saso knows that a lot of work lies ahead of her if she hopes to win gold for the Philippines in the Tokoyo Olympics this summer. “I still have to work on it.” She said. “There [are] a lot of tournaments coming up, so I’ll just get back to work and focus on my next tournament. And let’s see what’s going to happen in the Olympics.”