Saso caps back-to-back PLO romp with 67
MANILA, Philippines – Yuka Saso kept the Champion Philippine Ladies Amateur Open crown in a fashion only a player of her caliber could dish out, closing out with a four-under 67 and running away with a five-shot triumph over Yosita Khawnuna of Thailand at the Manila Golf Club Thursday.
In control of her game, the course and the field after 36 holes, Saso firmed up her overnight three-stroke lead with an early run of birdies then held sway with a slew of gutsy pars to scoot home to victory in the country’s premier championship presented by Champion.
Counting her back-to-back 70s, the 17-year-old reigning Asian Games gold medalist pooled a 207, beating Khawnuna by five as the Thai failed to keep up with the country’s top player’s fiery game for the second straight day although she turned in a decent 69 for a 212 aggregate.
Sofia Chabon likewise stayed in the background all throughout in the featured flight, failing to get her game going and finishing with a 70 for third with 215 in the event organized and conducted by the Women’s Golf Association of the Philippines.
Saso never let her rivals get no closer than three strokes with superb driving and near-impeccable iron shots, producing birdies and building a big cushion after No. 15 then settling for routine pars in the last three to secure the victory.
“There’s nothing special with my win. I just played steady and I’m happy I made it for the second straight time,” said the reigning Asian Games gold medalist, who surged ahead by three with back-to-back 70s Wednesday.
Khawnuna also broke par but just couldn’t keep pace with the unflappable Fil-Japanese, who birdied Nos. 4 and 6 then added three more at the back against a bogey. The Thai, who tied Saso and Mafy Singson after 18 holes but fell behind by three in the second round, wound up with a 212.
Chantee Wannasaen placed fourth at 217 after a 73 while compatriot Natthakritta Vongtaveelap shot a 72 for fifth at 223 in the event sponsored by Hana Shampoo, EVA Air, San Miguel Corp. and Diamond Motor Corp.
Aussie Olivia Kerr shared the spotlight by claiming the Class A diadem with a 252 after an 81 while Ina Guingona took the Class B plum with a 281 with a 93.
Saso’s victory was in stark contrast to her previous win at the Orchard last year where she rallied from three down to beat Mikha Fortuna by two. And it will surely boost her confidence as she goes up against an elite field, including world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park, in the inaugural The Country Club Ladies Invitational on March 6-8.
“This is a big morale boost heading to the TCC Ladies,” said Saso, who moved three wins from matching two-time LPGA Tour winner Jennifer Rosales's five-title romp in the 90s. “I hope to make it.”