Saso never doubted ability to win gold
JAKARTA—Faced with a daunting second shot from 210 yards on a par-5 finishing hole, Yuka Saso had no qualms taking a 4-iron and attempt the shot that will define her young career—and win the individual event and seal the team championship in the 18th Asian Games.
Bones Floro, the nonplaying skipper who helped put this team together, was in a golf cart on the pathway, some 80 yards from Saso’s spot. A crack player himself, Bones didn’t need to look at the flight of the ball, just Saso’s body language—or the lack of it.
“We just made history!” Bones declared as the gallery that crowded the side of the small, undulating 18th green erupted in frenzy.
Saso’s ball took one bounce near the right greenside bunker before settling on the fringe some 18 feet away.
A pin-high putt is left. Very make-able. History was indeed beckoning.
It was set up by a shot that came from a 17-year-old, a gorgeous swing that will, after a long walk in the middle of the fairway adorned by cheers from a small Filipino crowd, rewrite Philippine golf history in the Asian Games.
“I had no doubt on what (club) I wanted to hit. I didn’t have second thoughts taking the kind of shot I needed to,” Saso told the Inquirer, minutes after submitting a six-under-par 66 that keyed the Philippines’ golden sweep of women’s golf at Pondok Indah Golf Course here Sunday afternoon.
Near the green, while Saso was about to putt after studying her line intently, her Japanese father Masa was a nervous wreck, muttering in broken Filipino, loud enough for the Inquirer to hear: “Ilapit mo lang (just putt it close). Two putts, panalo pa din tayo (we will still win).”
“I was going to go [hole it] no matter what,” Saso said later.
And just like that, something never before done by the Philippines was accomplished by a troika of young ladies in a sport few people back home expected would give the country its biggest glory in the 45-nation Olympics of the region.
Draped with the PH flag of three stars and a sun, Bianca Pagdanganan and LK Go were whooping it up somewhere near the giant scoreboard.
Pagdanganan did her part, too, by carding a similar 66.
Go, whom coach Rick Gibson would later say was the comical lass who held the team together, failed to count with a 73.
The ladies and the other gold medalist, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, will arrive in Manila on Tuesday.
“This is the biggest thing that has happened to me,” said the 20-year-old Pagdanganan, who helped University of Arizona to the US NCAA title just a few months back. “This is far better (than the NCAA). I’m playing for my country, the country of my birth.
“Nothing can top what I am feeling right now,” she added, just after Saso had holed out and waited for the Chinese, Liu Wenbo, make a mess out of her 72nd hole with a quadruple bogey.
Gibson broke down while being interviewed, while the girls held their composure and celebrated with family and friends who made the trip here and shared their journey to history.
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