Saso hogs GDO spotlight

Dante Navarro - The Philippine Star
Saso hogs GDO spotlight
Yuka Saso
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Next to the Tokyo Olympics postponement, Yuka Saso’s back-to-back title feats in the early going of her rookie campaign in the LPGA of Japan Tour was Golf Digest Online’s second top news story in women’s golf in the pandemic-hit 2020 season.

By ruling the NEC Karuizawa and Nitori Ladies tournaments in August, the 19-year-old Fil-Japanese became only the third player in her teens to rack up consecutive victories since the tour system came into effect in 1998. She launched her rookie campaign with a joint fifth finish in the Earth Mondahmin Cup in June.

Ai Miyazato and Nasa Hataoka were the first two players to record such feats.

The ICTSI-backed ace also won the driving contest in the Descente Ladies Tokai Classic in September and went on to churn out six other Top 10 finishes to emerge the No. 1 player in the money race rankings with Y93,891,170 (P43.7 million) in earnings in 14 tournaments.

She, however, failed to make her maiden stint in the region’s premier ladies circuit more memorable as she yielded the Player of the Year top ranking to Ayaka Furue. But the recent JLPGA decision, integrating the 2020-21 seasons, gave Saso, and the rest of the bidders, a fresh crack at a sweep of the two coveted titles.

The JLPGA has lined up 38 money-rich events for 2021 although the recent spread of a new coronavirus variant, which already hit Japan, could derail plans to stage a full-calendar season.

From No. 296 world ranking in late 2019, Saso has reached the No. 45 spot at the end of 2020 with the 2018 Asian Games double gold medalist also a cinch for a berth in next year’s Olympics. She is currently at No. 21 in the official Olympic list where the Top 60 will earn spots in the Quadrennial Games.

Golf Digest Online is one of the world’s leading web portals. It is also the worldwide authority on how to play, what to play and where to play golf. It also offers golf instruction, equipment and courses, among others.

It listed the Tokyo Games postponement due to coronavirus as the top news for 2020 with local ace Hinako Shibuno’s final round meltdown in the US Women’s Open as the third top story for the year.

Also in the list were Erika Hara’s two consecutive majors wins in the JLPGA, Furue’s three victories late in the season, Ayaka Watanabe’s breakthrough win in Earth Mondahmin Cup, and Sakura Yokomine’s participation in the Toto Classic, a major event, in November despite being seven months pregnant.

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