JAKARTA—Strange things do happen in golf.
Historic ones, too.
Down by nine in team play and by four in the individual race going into the final round, the Philippine women’s team delivered a performance for the ages on Sunday with Yuka Saso gutsily holding on to complete a golden sweep that highlighted the country’s most productive day so far in the 18th Asian Games.
“I never lost faith in myself and I never doubted this team right from the beginning (even after trailing big in the earlier rounds),” Saso told the Inquirer after signing for a six-under-par 66 highlighted by an eagle 3 on the 72nd hole from about 18 feet from the fringe at Pondok Indah Golf Club here.
“We are all fighters [in this team], and we all fought hard out there for the country.”
The 17-year-old Saso tallied a 13-under 275 for the country’s first gold in women’s play and the first individual championship since Ramon Brobio won in 1986.
An equally big story was the team’s as Bianca Pagdanganan fought hard to key the Philippine comeback, also signing for a 66 as the Filipinos erased the nine-stroke deficit to total 22-under and beat South Korea by three and erstwhile leader China by four.
“This is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me,” said Pagdanganan, who was in the US NCAA-winning University of Arizona team.
“This is far different because we are playing for the country. Nothing can top what I am feeling right now.”
Pagdanganan, who made the cut in the Marathon Classic of the Ladies Professional Golf Association after the Arizona win, also went on to bag bronze by a playoff with a 279 total. The third member of the team, LK Go, failed to count with a 73.
It all boiled down to Saso as she won a battle of wits with Chinese spearhead Liu Wenbo, who had a critical error in judgement on the last hole that opened up the doors for her gold and blew China’s bid to win the team crown.
After an uncharacteristic double bogey on the par-3 17th, Saso was two down going to the 18th tee, before Liu dumped her drive on the left fairway bunker that triggered all the trouble for her and China.
It was in the way Liu played her next shot.
Liu, whom Saso said is among the top 20 in Asia, tried to put her second shot as close to the green as possible, mishitting it in the process to find the large lagoon guarding the left side of the fairway leading to the green.
The Chinese was on the fringe in six. And after Saso, who set up that eagle putt with a gorgeous 4-iron from 210 yards on the middle of the fairway, made the putt, Liu needed three more putts to hole out for a quadruple bogey 9 and sign for a 73.
That was the six-shot swing that keyed the Philippines’ first team gold for women. The country had bagged bronze medals before, the last in 2002 with a team built around Heidi Chua.
The twin triumphs more than made up for another disastrous day in other fronts for the Philippines, which now has a total of three gold medals, counting Hidiliyn Diaz’s triumph in weightlifting, and 10 bronzes as the country jumped to 15th overall at press time.
Pencak silat added two more bronze medals from Jeffrey Loon and Dines Dumaan.
Boxing finally registered a win as Rogen Ladon scored a 5-0 demolition of Nepal’s Prem Chaudhary in the preliminaries of men’s flyweight.
Four in the eight-strong boxing contingent are already out—Joel Bacho, Nesthy Petecio, Mario Fernandez and James Palicte.
In athletics, Mary Joy Tabal finished 11th in marathon, Filipino-American Kristina Knott failed to make the 100-meter finals and Aries Toledo withdrew from men’s decathlon after injuring his elbow during the pole vault warm-ups.
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