Who Is Yuka Saso, the Filipino Golfing Sensation Who's Among the World's Best?
The women’s golfing event in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is still ongoing, with three rounds done and one more to go. Filipino golfer Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan still have one round left to climb the rankings before the medalists are announced on Saturday, August 9. But medal or not, both golfers are already considered among the best in the world with Saso currently the reigning champion of the U.S. Women’s Open.
We’ve already written about Bianca Pagdanganan, so here’s everything you need to know about her fellow Olympian Yuka Saso, the MVP- and ICTSI-backed athlete who’s currently tied for 20th place after making strong comebacks in the second and third round.
1| She’s half-Japanese and half-Filipino.
Saso was born to a Japanese father and a Filipino mother in San Ildefonso, Bulacan. The family moved to Japan when she was four years old but returned to the Philippines when she was eight. Her heritage gives her the opportunity to play for Japan, but Saso chose the Philippines.
"I grew up here and [trained] here so if I play in the Olympics, [it will be for the] Philippines,” said Saso to Inquirer in 2018.
2| Her father taught her how to golf.
When the Saso family moved to Japan, Yuka didn’t know how to speak Japanese and used golf as an outlet to deal with the sudden changes in her life.
“I didn't have any friends, so my dad brought me to the driving range, to the golf course, that's the only thing that I did. It was sad [initially moving to Japan], but then golf is fun,” said Yuka of the experience.
3| At a young age, she knew she wanted to go pro.
It was while she was in Japan that she decided she wanted to be a top-ranked golfer like the Japanese golf star Ai Miyazato. She was only eight, but her parents followed her passion and decided to move back to the Philippines as it offered a more affordable way of living.
Saso’s father, Masakazu, told Kyodo, “We are not rich. It was impossible for us to keep playing golf in Japan.”
4| Her father is her biggest influence.
Saso has said that her father is her biggest influence. He was the first person to introduce her to her passion and helped her nurture it as she got older.
"He's been with me on the course since I was a kid. Everything he tells me helps me because he knows me well,” said Yuka to Inquirer.
5| Her father made her promise not to hate him.
When Yuka decided she wanted to be the best, even at the tender age of eight, her father was conflicted because he knew just how much intense training a champion would require. According to Kyodo, since she was so sure she wanted to be a top-ranked golfer, he made her promise not to hate him when training got hard.
“I will commit myself to rigorous training but I will not hate my parents for it. I will not dislike them. I will never forget to show a daughter’s smile,” says the written pledge he made her sign.
6| She’s ranked 10th in the world.
According to Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, Saso is currently ranked the 10th best female golfer in the world. She's also the youngest golfer in the top 10.
7| She turned professional when she was only 18 years old.
Despite being only 20 years old, she’s been competing in tournaments for years. She turned professional when she was only 18 in 2019 after earning her LPGA of Japan Tour Card. She still has plans to go to college, but she won’t be setting aside her pro career as she continues to climb world rankings.
8| She was the first Filipino to win the U.S. Women’s Open.
Saso’s best tournament to date was the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open in San Francisco where she placed first, the first-ever Filipino to win the tournament. She won it when she was only 19, and the victory so early in her career only cements her future as one of the Philippines’ best golfing champions.
9| She was the same age as the world’s best when she won the Open.
In a strange twist of fate, Saso was the same age as Inbee Park, currently ranked as the world’s best female golfer, when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2004. Park and Saso now tie as the youngest winners of the Open at the same age of 19 years, 11 months, and 17 days.
10| She broke records for the Philippines at the Asian Games.
At the 2018 Asian Games, Saso became the first Filipino golfer to win gold at the individual event. Then she made history again when her team, composed of Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go, won the team event, making her the first Filipino to win both individual and team events in one year.