As Saso says sayonara, officials express gratitude for her PH stints
Golf ace Yuka Saso has begun the process of acquiring Japanese citizenship, technically barring her from representing the Philippines in future competitions.
Saso’s decision, however, was received with much understanding and appreciation as the country’s top sports leaders expressed their gratitude for her never-done-before accomplishments.
“It is her right to make that decision. I fully understand her,’’ said Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chair William Ramirez, pointing out that the social benefits of Saso being Japanese far outweigh the advantages that the Philippines could offer.
The 20-year-old Saso, the first Filipino to win a golf major when she ruled the US Women’s Open earlier this year, was born to a Filipino mother in San Ildefonso, Bulacan. She told Japanese media that she will opt for her father’s nationality before she turns 22.
“Still, she was born here in the Philippines. So by heart, she represents both,’’ said Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Abraham “Bambol’’ Tolentino, who personally thanked Saso for representing the country in the past years.
“Her personal business decision will help her develop more as a person and as an athlete. Carrying a Japanese passport for every international tournament helps a lot since there’s no visa needed,’’ added Tolentino. “Aside from the social benefits, Yuka will be entitled to health-care benefits plus big sponsorships from Japan.”
Team Philippines lost a gem after Saso, the only Filipino golfer who captured both the individual and team gold medals in the Asian Games back in 2018, made the announcement about her citizenship shift on Wednesday. Japanese laws require people with dual citizenships to select one nationality before they reach 22 years old.
Ramirez spent lots of hours with Saso and her father before she teed off during the Tokyo Olympics while Tolentino followed the exploits of the Filipino-Japanese golf hero on the course.
Port magnate Enrique Razon was the biggest backer of Saso in the Philippines while the PSC supported her needs through the National Golf Association of the Philippines.
“I look forward to making you proud as I continue with my professional golfing career,’’ Saso, a two-time winner in the Japan Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, said in a statement.
Saso represented Team Philippines in the Tokyo Olympics along with fellow golfers Bianca Pagdanganan and Juvic Pagunsan.