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Sports

Saso thrilled in celebrity pro-am debut

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Saso thrilled in celebrity pro-am debut
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 – There is an aura of excitement as Yuka Saso kicks off the new season with a new equipment and a first crack in the Tournament of Champions, which features a select cast of LPGA Tour stars who have won an event the last two years in a celebrity pro-am format in Orlando, Florida.

And there couldn't be a thrilling way to start it by playing alongside former baseball stars Tom Glavine and Jon Lester in the 8:25 a.m. group Thursday at the Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, a water-laced layout lined with oak, pine and cypress trees which is well-known haven for Tour pros.

“Yuka is really excited to be competing in the T-of-C for the first time. It’s really a special event and she feels honored to compete amongst the top players in the world,” according to the reigning US Women’s Open champion’s handler Sterling Sports Management. “She plans to do her best and hope for a top finish.”

So do the rest of the 29-player field, who are actually spread in separate flights with the other celebrities, led by World No. 1 Nelly Korda, who will play in the company of medicinal chemist Derek Lowe and former football star Charles Woodson at 9:09 a.m., and defending champion Jessica Korda, who is paired with former Atlanta Braves hurler John Smoltz and golf legend Annika Sorenstam at 9:31 a.m.

Saso, the World No. 8, also couldn’t wait to use her new Callaway equipment after the 20-year-old shotmaker signed a multi-year contract with the leading golf brand in a product test during the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii earlier this month.

"I'm so happy to join Callaway and to work with their outstanding Tour team as I start the next phase of my career with their equipment," said the ICTSI-backed Saso. "From their drivers to their golf balls, the performance really stands out to me in testing and out on the course."

"I feel confident that this is the best set up for my game and I'm looking forward to a great year," she added.

But the likes of Inbee Park, Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson, Danielle Kang, Nasa Hataoka, Celine Boutier, Patty Tavatanakit, Anna Nordqvist and Thai siblings Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn are also all geared up for the $1.5 million event, seeking a top podium finish and the momentum needed in another grueling season featuring 38 money-rich tournaments spread all over the world.

Jessica Korda nipped Kang in sudden death to clinch the championship last year but it was her sister Nelly who went on to dominate the season with four victories, including a major, the Women’s PGA Championship, capping her sterling season with a gold medal feat in the Tokyo Olympics.

Meanwhile, World No. 2 Jin Young Ko, who also racked four wins last year, and fellow Koreans Sei Young Kim and Hyo Joo Kim are all skipping the three-tournament Florida swing that includes the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio on Jan. 27-30 in Boca Raton and the LPGA Drive On Championship on Feb. 3-5 at Fort Myers.

GOLF

YUKA SASO

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