MANILA, Philippines — Yuka Saso was just some weeks faraway from profitable the Asian Games gold medal double, simply three months previous her 18th birthday and was on the perimeter of the 18th inexperienced of Rancho Palos Verdes in Davao enjoying tag with Pradera Verde teammates who have been 11 and 12 years outdated.
They had another spherical to play, simply 18 holes remaining to erase a three-point deficit to Manila Southwoods with a purpose to repeat as Philippine Airlines (PAL) Ladies Interclub champion.
Bong Lopez, the Southwoods coach whose bets have been main coming into the fourth spherical, was requested: “What do you think are your chances of unseating Pradera?”
“Slim and none, partner,” Lopez replied earlier than pointing to Saso. “She is in a totally different league. She’s the best in the country, the best in Asia.”
Fast ahead three years later and Saso is one of the best on this planet.
Saso was a carefree spirit then, a carefree spirit now and by no means loses concentrate on the duty at hand—by no means thoughts if it was simply for the PAL Ladies Interclub title, a crew occasion that doesn’t glorify anybody or any crew globally.
As lengthy as there’s a match to be performed—and received—you may wager that Yuka’s thoughts will likely be on it.
“It didn’t really matter to me how many holes we go. I just wanted to stay focused and stay in the zone,” Saso stated in an interview on Monday (Manila time) after her US Women’s Open triumph at Olympic Village over Japan’s Nasa Hataoka within the third playoff gap.
‘Three Idiots’ quote
She was exceptionally composed, remarkably targeted contemplating what was at stake — no Filipino, man or girl, had received a golf main earlier than. And the important thing to her calm was hilarious.
The Inquirer’s feminine athlete of the yr for 2020 stated that when the playoff began, she saved in thoughts a quote from the “Three Idiots” film to remain calm.
“All is well.”
“I watched that movie, Three Idiots. You know that movie, ‘Three Idiots’? That Indian movie with “all is well?” That’s the place I bought it from.”
It didn’t seem to be all was nicely at the beginning of the fourth spherical, although, as Yuka fell six pictures behind Lexi Thompson after double bogeys at Nos. 2 and three. But her resolve confirmed for the remainder of the spherical, as birdies on the par-5 sixteenth and seventeenth holes pulled her degree with Thompson and Hataoka earlier than the favored American did not make it a three-way playoff with a par putt that was horribly brief from 10 ft.
Saso and Hataoka completed with equivalent aggregates of four-under 280, with Thompson ending a shot again. Both protagonists have been tied after two playoff holes, forcing a sudden-death gap.
Saso drilled a 10-foot birdie there, pumped her fist and celebrated with Filipino followers who adopted her in the course of the match.
“I don’t know what’s happening in the Philippines right now, but I’m just thankful that there’s so many people in the Philippines cheering for me,” stated Saso, whose skilled resume consists of two Japan LPGA victories however no wins on the US LPGA tour. “I don’t know how to thank them. They gave me so much energy. I want to say thank you to everyone.”
Flashback earlier than the PAL Interclub, on a airplane to Jakarta for the Asian Games the place Saso was seated beside nationwide crew coach Rick Gibson.
Formidable Asiad odds
A couple of minutes earlier than landing, when Saso went to the bathroom, the Inquirer, seated in entrance of Gibson requested: “Coach, how do you think we’ll do there (in the Asian Games)?”
“We have a potent women’s team made up of girls,” Gibson, a former Philippine Open champion, first stated of his squad made up of youngsters Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go. “We have a solid team, I think. And with Yuka, we have a chance of winning a medal.”
Gibson couldn’t be particular. It was comprehensible why. The Philippines could be enjoying golf-crazy international locations in Asia like Japan, South Korea and China, which, at the moment, was backstopped by world’s Twenty eighth-ranked beginner in Liu Wenbo.
Team Philippines fell behind by formidable margins within the crew competitors and all Saso may do was sniff at Liu’s coattails within the remaining spherical earlier than the Filipino got here up with the shot of her life that broke her into worldwide consciousness.
Saso was two-down once they stepped on the 18th tee mound of Jakarta Golf Club, a par-5 gap with a fairway bending to the left. It required a useless straight drive to realize clearance to the inexperienced. Saso nailed the drive.
‘We struck gold’
Bones Floro, a crack golfer himself, was there watching for the National Golf Association of the Philippines. He rode a cart your complete spherical making an attempt to see how Saso, Pagdanganan and Go have been doing.
Faced with a 210-yard second shot from the center of the green to a really small goal, Saso confidently pulled out a 4-iron, straightened herself for the shot and uncorked a superbly struck shot.
Even whereas the ball was in flight, Floro advised the Inquirer: “We struck gold, partner,” as Saso’s strategy landed on the inexperienced, rolled ever barely on the perimeter pin-high about 18 ft away.
Saso made the eagle putt, whereas Liu, trying befuddled by what she had seen, got here aside for a horrific quadruple bogey as Team PH accomplished a comeback for the ages and swept the ladies’s crew and particular person gold medals.
“That young lady plays without fear in her,” Floro would later say in the course of the din of the celebration previous the 18th inexperienced.
Right now, it’s the world that will likely be fearing Saso for what she has simply achieved, particularly the Tokyo Olympics subject the place she’s going to dealing with principally the identical competitors.
Especially with how she sees her future.
“I’m not planning to change anything. Just keep (doing) what I’m doing.”
—WITH A REPORT FROM AFP
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