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Yuka Saso lets go of Philippine colors

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Yuka Saso lets go of Philippine colors
Yuka Saso of the Philippines on the third hole during the second round of the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club on November 19, 2021 in Naples, Florida.
Douglas P. DeFelice / Getty Images / AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Yuka Saso has ceased using the Philippine colors days before the reigning US Women's Open champion launches her 2022 campaign on the LPGA Tour.

The move also came two years ahead of her scheduled renouncement of the Filipino citizenship in favor of the red circle flag.

In the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions’ elite 29-player roster — and in her next LPGA events, Saso has the Japanese flag across her name, letting go of the Philippine tricolors that she has carried since she started competing overseas as member of the national team.

During her amateur run, she racked up honors for the Philippines, including winning the 2014 Sabah International Junior Masters, the 2015 Kartini Cup and the 2018 Victorian Junior Masters.

She claimed the individual gold and led the Philippine team (with Harmie Constantino and Sofia Legaspi) to the championship in the 2016 World Junior Girls Championship in Canada then pocketed the individual gold in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta while powering the squad of Bianca Pagdanganan and LK Go to the team championship in the quadrennial regional sporting conclave.

The ICTSI-backed shotmaker fell short of winning a medal in the 2019 Youth Olympics and represented the Philippines last in the Tokyo Olympics, where she wound up ninth.

As a young campaigner Saso dominated the local turf for a couple of years, winning the 2016 and 2017 Philippine Junior Amateur Stroke and Match Play championships, the 2017 Philippine Amateur Open and the 2018 Philippine Ladies Open and twice won in the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour as an amateur.

Born in San Ildefonso, Bulacan to a Japanese father and Filipino mother, Saso, 20, disclosed her citizenship preference when she made her return to the LPGA of Japan Tour last November, saying she did so “because of Japan’s nationality law.”

Under the Japanese nationality law, dual citizens must select their nationality by the age of 22.

Saso has time and again reiterated that she is both Japanese and Filipino at heart no matter which citizenship she would eventually choose.

“I am a Filipina, born in the Philippine and was raised in both Japan and the Philippine. I am immensely proud of my dual heritage and that will never change,” she would always say.

Saso actually fell short of her LPGA Tour card bid in 2019 but made the grade in the JLPGA, immediately making an impact with two victories while capping her rookie campaign on the region’s premier ladies circuit by topping the money derby and finishing second in the Player of the Year race.

Her sterling JLPGA performance gained her invites and slots to select LPGA events and became the new toast of women’s pro golf when she snared the US Women’s Open diadem via playoff over Japanese Nasa Hataoka last June. The historic feat also netted her a five-year full LPGA exempt status.

That includes a spot in this week’s $1.5 million championship at the Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Florida where the world No. 8 will be mixing it up with world No. 1 Nelly Korda and Danielle Kang of the US, Koreans Inbee Park, A Lim Kim and Hee Young Park, Swede Anna Nordqvist, Thais Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn and Patty Tavatanakit, Canada’s Brooke Henderson, world No. 3 Lydia Ko of New Zealand and fellow Japanese and world No. 6 Nasa Hataoka.

World No. 2 Jin Young Ko, No. 5 Sei Young Kim and No. 10 Hyo Joo Kim of Korea, however, begged from the 72-hole championship.

GOLF

YUKA SASO

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