Daily Tribune (Philippines)

Saso braces for JLPGA campaign


The expected chilly surroundin­gs at the Ryuryu Golf Club in Okinawa Prefecture isn’t precisely the type of conditions Yuka Saso would prefer heading to the kickoff of the 2021 LPGA of Japan Tour in three weeks’ time.

But the Filipino-Japanese is focused and ready to rise to the challenge, stronger and better after a stirring pro debut last year.

Saso maintains that she’s still in a learning process although unlike in her rookie campaign, the ICTSI-backed shotmaker is expected to hog the spotlight, along with the circuit's revered players, when the Y120 million ($1.1 million) Daikin Orchid Ladies fires off on 4 March.

“I learned a lot of lessons (in my rookie year),” Saso said.

“But it’s a continuing process and I want to focus on every tournament that I will play.”

It’s hard to explain or express what I learned but it’s a good experience.

So do the rest of the 108-player starting field in the 72-hole championsh­ip, which kicks off a busy year for the JLPGA campaigner­s with over 30 money-rich tournament­s penciled.

The circuit settled for 14 tournament­s in the pandemic-hit 2020 season.

Saso proved her worth and class, upstaging the veterans by posting two victories and six other Top 10 finishes as she emerged the top money earner with P43.5 million.

Though a rather shaky windup had cost her the Player of the Year honors, the JLPGA decision, integratin­g the 2020-21 seasons to make up for the cancelled tournament­s, has kept the 2018 Asian Games double gold medalist in the hunt for a rare sweep of the twin premier titles.

And she will go to battle against the likes of Ayaka Furue, Sakura Koiwai, Ayaka Watanabe, Shin Jie, Saki Nagamine, Aragaki Hina, Mika Miyazato, defending champion Mamiko Higa and local ace Erika Hara, who are all raring to foil Saso from another impressive run.

Three other events are on tap for March, including the Seimei Ladies Yokohama, the T Point Eneos Golf and the Axaledis Golf while five tournament­s are slated in April with the circuit’s first major, the World Ladies Championsh­ip Salonpas Cup, scheduled May 6-9 in Ibaraki.

Looking back to her maiden pro season, Saso said she wasn’t expecting to win but learn from the seasoned campaigner­s in the region’s most lucrative circuit.

“I wasn’t expecting anything but just wanted to learn from veteran pros here in JLPGA,” she said. “It’s hard to explain or express what I learned but it’s a good experience.”

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