05 October 2018
The Philippines took home two gold medals from the women’s individual and team categories. The victories were unexpected for the team, including Yuka Saso, the athlete who proved key to The Philippines’ success in overthrowing the Asian golf giants.
On Sunday, August 26, the 18th Asian Games presented the final day of the tournaments golf event. On the final hole, the last group of women - Yuka Saso, Wenbo Liu, and Heejong Lim, battled for the women’s individual gold medal.
Attempting here second shot, Saso had 210 yards to reach the par-5 18th green. Briefly thinking about the distance and which club to play, the 17-year-old Filipina-Japanese player didn't hesitate as she stepped up to play her shot with her 4-iron.
This second shot proved to be a defining moment in her young career, helping her gain a great achievement in the second-largest multi-sport event. On the green, Saso managed to hole the ball with one putt giving her an eagle that delivered her the title. Not only that, Saso who teamed up with Bianca Pagdanganan and Louis Kay Go for the team event, claimed the team title to go alongside another medal: an individual bronze courtesy of Bianca. It was a euphoric day for The Philippines.
“I had no doubt on what [club] I wanted to hit. I didn’t have second thoughts taking the kind of shot I needed to,” said Saso, who finished a 6-under (66) to seal the Philippines’ golden sweep of women’s golf at Pondok Indah Golf Course.
The team had not anticipated grabbing two gold medals at once. “Unbelievable,” said Rick Gibson, The Philippines’ team coach, as quoted by businessmirror.com. “Wow, these girls!”
Despite still being in their teens, Gibson remarked that Saso and her teammates already possess the experience to excel under pressure and win major tournaments. He went on to confide that it was only Pagdanganan and Go who walked the course ahead of the Games.
“Yuka? She didn’t join the two girls. But she knows the course, she played there three years ago,” he said.
Saso certainly showed her astute level of play during the final round. Starting the final day four strokes behind overnight leader Wenbo Liu of China who was on 11-under par, Saso managed to shave off shots to share the lead with Liu on 13-under. However, Saso faced a disaster on the par-3 17th when she made a double-bogey. Worse for her, Liu made a birdie to give her a three-stroke lead.
Then, on the final hole, Saso made her remarkable shot. From 210 yards away, her ball landed just 10 feet from the hole. Holding her nerve, Saso made an eagle, while Liu collapsed, making a quadruple bogey on the same hole.
“I just never lost faith in myself and I never doubted this team from the beginning,” said Saso. “We are all fighters and we really fought hard for our country.”
Bianca Pagdanganan completed The Philippines’ domination in the women’s category. She clinched a bronze medal by beating Ayako Furue of Japan in a one-hole playoff.
Pagdanganan said winning the group category was unexpected given that their opponent was China, who are considered the powerhouse in golf events.
“It was really hard because we know that China is a strong team, but we didn't think of the score difference, we just really tried to lift our game,” said Pagdanganan, as quoted by CNN Philippines.
The two gold medals were the first for The Philippines in the golf competition of the Asian Games since Ramon Brobio won the men's individual gold at the 1986 games in Seoul.