Yuka Saso spikes her near-record 36-hole stint with superb short game
Photo courtesy of USGA.ORG
Peerless Saso claims medal honors
Dante Navarro (Philstar.com) - July 24, 2019 - 1:25pm

MANILA, Philippines — Yuka Saso stayed on course for a dream US Girls’ Junior crown with another brilliant performance at SentryWorld, churning out a bogey-free, eagle-spiked five-under 67 to earn medalist honors after the 36-hole stroke play elims in Stevens Point, Wisconsin Tuesday (Wednesday Manila time).

Counting her solid course record 65 Monday, the 18-year-old Fil-Japanese pooled a 12-under 132, beating Aussie Maddison Hinson-Tolchard by five for the No. 1 seeding and emerging as the only player from among the 154 bidders to go bogey-free in stroke play at the par-72 layout.

Now comes the hard part.

The match play begins Wednesday with the top-seeded Saso taking on either Ainsley Cowart of Georgia or Kayle Sakoda of California, who will be disputing the last and No. 64 slot in a playoff early Wednesday.

“I really don’t play in match play except at USGA Championships,” said Saso. “So, to be honest, I’m a little nervous. But I’m trying to prepare and set myself up well.”

But if one were to go over Saso’s performances the past two days, her would-be rivals in the knockout stage should be the ones to feel anxious. Seven birdies to launch her drive to reclaim the crown won by compatriot Princess Superal in 2014. And three more birdies with an eagle to boot to close out her sterling 36-hole feat that stood as the third best in the annual event.

Taylore Karle assembled a 130 in topping the qualifiers in 2005 at BanBury Golf Course in Eagle, Idaho while Lucy Li pooled a 131 at Poppy Hills in Pebble Beach, California last year.

“I’m definitely happy,” said the reigning Asian Games gold medalist who is coming off a big victory in the Girls Juniior PGA Championship in Connecticut 11 days ago. “My goal over the first two days was to get into match play, so it feels good to accomplish that.”

Hinson-Tolchard matched Saso’s opening 65 to snare the No. 2 seeding with a 137 with Sophia Bae of the US ending up No. 3 with a 139 after a 71 followed by Korean YoonMin Han (69-141), Jillian Bourdage of the US (72-141), American Sabrian Iqbal (72-142), Chian’s Lei Ye (74-142), Korean Bohyun Park (69-143), and Americans Erica Shepherd (69-143), Erica Smith (72-143) and Briana Chacon (74-143).

Keeping the momentum of her seven-birdie feat Monday, Saso parred the first four holes at the back where she teed off then eagled the par-5 No. 14 and birdied the 17th before gaining two more strokes on Nos. 3 and 5, barely holing out with another birdie on the par-5 ninth to dominate the elims.

Her five-stroke margin of victory in stroke play also matched the largest in the championship since 2000 with the biggest at seven shared by Beth Bauer in 1997, Lauren Howe in 1976 and Kathleen Ahern in 1966.

GOLF YUKA SASO
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