Yuka Saso fires off great start as Japanese citizen in Hilton Grand opener

JR Isaga
Yuka Saso fires off great start as Japanese citizen in Hilton Grand opener

SOLID START. Yuka Saso joins the early pacesetters.


Yuka Saso represents Japan for the first time in an LPGA tournament in Florida

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino-Japanese star Yuka Saso had a dazzling start to her 2022 season as a professional Japanese golfer at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in Orlando, Florida on Thursday, January 20 (Friday, January 21, Manila time).

The 20-year-old fired a 4-under 68 in the first of a four-round tournament, putting her in a four-way tie at second place just behind Mexico’s Gaby Lopez, who fired a 5-under.

Saso skyrocketed near the top of the 29-person leaderboard thanks to a 14th hole-out eagle, which surprised even the seasoned youngster.

“I’m very thankful I was able to play in this event. That eagle, that was unexpected, but I hit a good shot. Landed probably a foot left of the hole and spun back and went in. I was surprised, but that was really good,” she said in an interview with the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).

LPGA noted that “while her game is marked by youthful aggression, it’s tempered by a veteran’s accuracy, a trait that’s beneficial around a course like Lake Nona.”

Sure enough, that “youthful aggression” reared its head as Saso tallied 4 bogeys along with 6 birdies, while Lopez, who also had 6 birdies, only bogeyed on the 11th hole as she set the tone for the rest.

All in all for Round 1, Saso led the field in driving distance with 279 yards off the tee, while needing just 29 putts to land in second place.

The Hilton Grand tournament will run until Sunday, January 23 (Monday, January 24, Manila time).

Saso stunned her Filipino fans prior to the tourney by switching nationalities as early as this particular tournament, even though Japanese law only requires dual citizens to finalize their decision before their 22nd birthday.

The pride of Bulacan will only turn 21 this June 20, but has since decided to choose her Japanese lineage last November 2021.

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