MANILA, Philippines — Yuka Saso, who has been very vocal in her desire to deliver the first Olympic gold for the Philippines, will have practically seven months to hone and sharpen her skills before taking on the world’s best in the pandemic-disrupted Tokyo Olympics.
The LPGA of Japan Tour money race leader has moved to No. 21 in the official Reallocation Reserve List (for women) with the 19-year-old Fil-Japanese tipped to go higher in the rankings when the JLPGA resumes its integrated 2020-21 seasons in March.
Saso has won two tournaments and made six Top 10 finishes in her rookie season in the JLPGA, one of the official Olympic ranking tournaments. , with a Top 15 ranking after the qualification period on June 28, 2021 netting the ICTSI-backed ace an automatic berth in the quadrennial games moved to July 23-Aug. 8, 2021 due to coronavirus pandemic.
Golf competitions are slated Aug. 5-8 at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, giving Saso and the rest of the JLPGA campaigners who will see action in the Olympics some kind of anedge on familiarity.
Bianca Pagdanganan is also eyeing a berth in the Olympics although the LPGA Tour driving leader will have a lot of improving to do at resumption of the circuit in January to bolster her bid. She is currently at No. 41 at the end of the 2020 season.
Four Pinoys have so far gained tickets in the Olympics, led by world champion Carlos Yulo of gymnastics, EJ Obiena of pole vault and boxers Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno with Saso a cinch to nail one.
Officials are targeting 38 Filipinos to compete in the Tokyo Games with athletics, swimming, men’s basketball 3×3, judo, skateboarding, weightlifting, taekwondo, cycling, rowing, table tennis, kayak and karate tipped to produce winners at resumption of their respective Olympic qualifying tournaments next year.
But Saso looms as the country’s strongest bet with the power-hitting ace expected to get better, stronger as she gears up for her second season in the region’s premier ladies circuit.
The JLPGA has calendared a total of 38 money-rich events in 2021, results of which will be combined with those from the 14 tournaments staged in the year about to end.
Saso topped the money rankings with P43.5 million in earnings and finished second to Ayaka Furue in the Player of the Year derby although the JLPGA decision to integrate the 2020 and 2021 seasons made the race for the top two honors a wide-open one.
But the 2018 Asian Games double gold medalist, who also dreams of becoming world No. 1, has since trained her sights on the Olympics, saying: “My dream is to win the Olympic gold.”
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