Historic! At 19, Filipino-Japanese Golfer Yuka Saso Emerges As The 76th US Women's Open Champion
With her victory, she effectively elevates the status of the Filipino golfer and asks the world to finally pay attention to a rich crop of local golfing talent
19-year-old pro golfer Yuka Saso is the 76th US Women's Open champion!
The young athlete made history in the world's biggest golf tournament as the first-ever Filipino to win the title, and only the second teenager in the world to bring home the coveted trophy. The only teenager champion is South Korea's Park Ing-bee. This time, Yuka Saso beat Japan's Nasa Hataoka to the title.
Aside from the win being a personal victory, Yuka Saso becoming the 76th US Women's Open champion means a lot for the Filipino golf community. Enjoying little to no international attention in the past, local golfers are sure to enjoy a boost in recognition and legitimacy thanks to the sport's newfound heroine.
Still standing in the middle of San Francisco's Olympic Club, Yuka Saso attempts to deliver her first interview as the 76th US Women's Open champion but is overcome with tearful emotion. She thanks her family and her team, and the support of her fans from the Philippines and Japan (she's half-Japanese), and says that she only plans to get better from here on.
For serious golfers, they'll tell you how Yuka Saso's win truly was a feat to behold. She was up to a bad start, falling far behind her competitors, and needed to execute near perfect performances to even make it to the top five. Lo and behold, the teenager golfer succeeded and beat all odds, doing exactly what needed to be done to make it to number one.
The 76th US Women's Open is not her first major international tournament.
Yuka Saso is actually an Olympian and she competed at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics held in Argentina and in the 2018 Asian Games where she gave the Philippines its first-ever gold medal in golf for both the individual women's and team's categories.
Before her big victory, Yuka Saso got another surprise, this time, in the form of encouragement from her golf idol, Ireland's Rory McIlroy. The former world number one made it known that he was closely following the Filipina's performance at the tournament.
Everyone’s going to be watching Yuka Saso swing videos on YouTube now. Congratulations! 🏆 https://t.co/oyKoFHgjz1— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) June 7, 2021
Her fellow Pinoy sports personalities were quick to congratulate Yuka Saso the moment she became the competition's official champ. She heard from ballers Kai Sotto and brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, and even PBA coach Tim Cone.
Yuka Saso was born in the Philippines but moved to Japan as a young girl.
Her passion for golf was unplanned. The language barrier brought her to the golf range; she had difficulty settling in a foreign country and to help ease the bumpy transition, her father thought she would find comfort in sports.
There, Yuka Saso practiced her swing again and again, eventually gaining mastery and also self-confidence.
She returned the Philippines when she was nine years old, and that was when she trained as a pro golfer full-time while balancing her academics.
Today, Yuka Saso has her fingers crossed for even bigger wins to come as she prepares for the 2021 Olympics to be held in Tokyo. She currently holds the 22nd spot in the Olympic golf rankings.
Lead photos from @piretti_japan @uswomensopen