Yuka Saso to defend ‘life-changing’ US Women’s Open title
Earning an Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour card following her maiden major triumph in last year’s US Women’s Open was a “life-changing” experience for Yuka Saso, the Japanese-Filipino golfer told Reuters on Wednesday.
Saso battled back from a horror start to win the title in a sudden death playoff in San Francisco last June, earning a five-year Tour card and announcing herself as a new force in women’s golf, which is largely dominated by South Koreans.
“It was life-changing,” the Philippine-born 20-year-old said in an interview from the United States.
“Since then I’ve been playing on the LPGA Tour and every single week I have been learning a lot and really enjoying my journey, so I’m very grateful.
“It’s not even a year yet, but everyone is great. They’re so friendly and if I have questions, they’re all happy to help. To be on the stage I always dreamt about is awesome.”
The world No. 15 said she would be heading into the unknown when she defends her title at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in North Carolina next month.
“It’ll be my first tournament as defending champion, so I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Saso.
“I don’t know what to expect, so I’ll try to enjoy it, try to prepare the way I do for other events.”
Saso, the daughter of a Filipino mother and Japanese father, first shot to prominence in the 2018 Asian Games, where she won individual and team gold medals for the Philippines.
She represented her mother’s nation when she won her major and at the Tokyo Olympics last year, but has opted to play for her father’s country since last November in order to retain her Japanese passport.
“I’m very proud of being half Japanese and half Filipino,” said Saso, who had to make the call before her 22nd birthday under Japanese law.
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