Moment of indecision led Yuka Saso to Japan—and historic triumph
Yuka Saso—a multimillionaire at the tender age of 19—has always known what she wants in life.
“I still need to study [for a college degree], I really want to study, whether that be in the [United] States [or wherever],” Saso told Inquirer Golf Monthly, less than a day removed from winning a leg on the Japan LPGA on Sunday that put her career earnings total past the P11-million mark after less than three months as a professional.
“But I want to study outside of Japan. It might not be this year or next year.
“But I really want to go back to school.”
Blessed with great talent, Saso found herself playing in Japan after failing to make up her mind—and failing to qualify for the US LPGA—on whether to turn pro or accept several scholarship offers from high-profile colleges in the United States.
“I think I wasn’t at my best [then],” Saso said, when asked how she took her US LPGA failure. “I think it was God’s way of telling me to learn [the game] more, to practice harder.”
She said thinking of that college degree kept her from playing her best while in the United States.
“At that time, I was choosing between going to college and turning pro. So in a way, that might have affected my performance,” Saso said.
“I wasn’t really too sure what direction I wanted to take and it was only after that (failure) that I was able to talk things out with my parents.”
Fast forward to this time of the pandemic—in a setting regarded as one of the toughest ladies tours in the world—and Saso has made her mark, becoming the first Filipino to win on the Japan LPGA and playing to her potential so fast, which has made a lot of experts conclude that this will be the first of many wins worldwide.
“Failing [in the US] meant I got the chance to find a lot of time with my family,” she went on. “I’ve always been away competing in tournaments abroad most of my teenage life, and being based in Japan now feels like heaven because I’m with my parents and my siblings.”
Her four-stroke victory over a tough field gave this pandemic-hit country something to smile about, a sporting heroine Filipinos haven’t had the chance to toast with sports shuttered since the second week of March.
It is also but natural for people to wonder how she will spend her bonanza, considering that a teenage athlete so early in her career with that much money is virtually unheard of back home.
“I’m not too sure. But I want to buy my family the things that will protect them in this pandemic that’s getting so scary, that will keep them away from the harm of COVID,” Saso said.
“Didn’t someone say being alive is more important than earning money?”
The reigning Asian Games gold medal winner will surely come home to a raucous welcome. Only she doesn’t have an idea when that will be.