Yuka Saso made history as the country’s first major golf tournament winner after she bagged the 2021 US Women’s Open title.
Her victory sent shockwaves all over the world as the Filipino teen is now a titlist in one the most prestigious tournament in women’s golf.
Get to know Saso’s remarkable young professional golf career.
Saso was born in San Ildefonso, Bulacan to a Filipino mother and a Japanese father, who loves golf. At four years old, she moved to Japan and studied there.
But at eight years old, she wanted to pursue playing golf so her parents thought it was best that she returned to the Philippines and was homeschooled until she graduated high school.
The first time Saso watched a golf tournament, she immediately knew that she wanted to become a professional golfer.
She started competing at nine years old against older junior golfers, and represented the Philippines in an international tournament for the first time in the 2011 US Kids golf tournament.
Saso also participated in the country’s hosting of the 2014 ASEAN School Games in Marikina.
Saso’s major breakthrough in the Philippine sports scene was when she won two gold medals in the 2018 Asian Games golf tournament.
She copped a come-from-behind win in the individual event by hitting an eagle in the 18th hole to beat China’s Liu Wenbo. Bianca Pagdanganan’s bronze medal finish secured the team gold for the Philippines.
Leading up to the Asiad, Saso won the 2018 Philippine Ladies Open – the top women’s golf tournament in the country.
She also had a stellar amateur career, bagging titles in the 2016 World Junior Girls Championship and the Philippine Junior Amateur tournaments in 2016 and 2017, among others.
Saso turned professional in 2020 in the Japan LPGA and bagged two straight titles in her rookie season.
As a teen, she triumphed in the NEC Karuizawa Championship and the Nitori Ladies Golf Tournament.
Though she did not qualify for the LPGA, she landed a 13th place finish in her first tour major championship in the US Open last December 2020.
Saso was impressive as a rookie as she entered 2021 ranked 45th in the world and topped the money rankings with earnings amounting to P50 million during her pro debut season.
Saso tied South Korean golf star Inbee Park as the youngest winner of the oldest women’s major golf tournament at 19 years old, 11 months and 17 days.
The Filipina thrilled golf fans all over the world as she rallied to force a two-hole aggregate playoff on No. 9 and 18 with Nasa Hataoka for the US Open crown.
Saso powered through the playoffs and came in clutch by extending the playoffs to a sudden death round where she triumphed over the Japanese.
Her victory earned her a spot in the LPGA, which she did not qualify for in the previous year, and exemptions in the next 10 US Women’s Open and next five AIG Women’s British Opens, KPMG Women’s PGA Championships, ANA Inspirations, and Amundi Evian Championships.
If Saso did not qualify for the professional tour, she would’ve accepted the offer to play amateur golf for the University of Georgia.
The university was already offering her a scholarship since 2016, and Saso continued to expand her pathways by visiting different schools after the 2018 Asian Games.
But now that she has turned professional, Saso will continue to look for colleges with online schooling opportunities.
“I only follow Rory on Twitter,” said Saso to Philippine media when asked about her Twitter account.
Saso has been a big McIlroy fan since she was young and has mentioned him in countless interviews since the 2018 Asiad.
The former world No. 1 also gave her an extra boost during the 2021 US Women’s Open, telling her to ‘get that trophy’.. And she did.
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.