Sport

Saso launches Japan Tour bid

Saso launches Japan Tour bid

MANILA, Philippines — Yuka Saso sets out against some of the best and the brightest in the region in the Earth Mondahmin Cup today, thrilled more than anxious in her maiden stint in the tough LPGA of Japan Tour at the Camellia Hills Country Club in Chiba.

“I feel good but more than anything else, I want to enjoy playing,” said Saso, nixing the notion of her going all-out to create an early impression in her first tournament in the lucrative circuit.

Though she opted to downplay her chances, the rising Fil-Japanese star is coming into the $2.1 million event fortified by constant and variable practice during the long break from the coronavirus pandemic with observers expecting her to showcase the talent and skills that have marked her rise as one of the world’s top amateurs the last couple of years.

“Practicing frequently and putting all your heart on it produce outcomes,” said Saso, who turned 19 last week. She drew a 1 p.m. start on No. 10 with Japanese Aoi Ohnishi and Risa Murata.

It was all pure heart and sheer determination Saso flaunted when she rallied from way down to snatch the 2018 Asian Games gold medal in Jakarta while also powering the Philippines to the team championship. She also won a couple of pro tournaments back home to highlight a brilliant amateur career.

But she chose to tone down expectations this week.

“Honestly, no expectations. Sometimes they don’t work for me quite well,” said Saso who is actually in her third tournament as a pro after playing two events in Australia early in the season. She missed the cut at Handa Vic Open and ended up tied for 25th in Women’s Australian Open.

Momoko Ueda, a 15-time JLPGA Tour winner, banners the full-packed 144-player field in the $2.2 million event, the first tournament after the long hiatus from the coronavirus pandemic.

Ueda starts at 1:10 p.m. on No. 1 with Minami Hiruta and Moeka Nishihata.