Standout 17-year-old golfer Yuka Saso excels in present, looks to future

Yuka Saso of the Philippines celebrates winning the gold medal on her last putt during the final round of the women's individual golf event at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta on August 26, 2018. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images) Peter Parks/Getty Images

Standout 17-year-old golfer Yuka Saso excels in present, looks to future

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Standout 17-year-old golfer Yuka Saso excels in present, looks to future

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Yuka Saso is a mix of fierce ambition and patience.

The 17-year-old claimed late last year that she wanted to be the World No. 1 golfer by age 24. But she noted this week that earning that honor isn’t an urgent concern.

“I can be World No. 1 when I’m 40,” she said, laughing.

If it happens, Saso will have gotten there with plenty of planning.

She was born in the Philippines, but her family moved to Japan when she was 4. The youngster fell in love with golf as an 8-year-old, and she returned to the Philippines to take advantage of better weather for the game.

She has been there ever since, living with an uncle and having a full-time housekeeper. Her dad, Masakazu, goes back and forth between the Philippines and Japan. Mom, Fritzie, is back in Tokyo with Yuka’s four younger siblings.

“It was sad (to make that move at first), but then golf is fun,” Saso said.

Originally the plan was for Saso to spend a year in the Philippines with golf and stay if she liked it. If not, she’d be back to Japan.

Her passion for the game has netted results.

Saso won four times in 2018 and has risen to No. 34 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Her victories include a triumph at the Asian Games and the AJGA’s prestigious Thunderbird International Junior.

She’s done it with the help of excellent ball-striking and is now most focused on improving her short game and putting. Saso is searching for better distance control around the greens and a mastery of more types of short-game shots.

She continues to test herself against top competition. The Class of 2020 prospect recently committed to Georgia, where she will have friend and fellow Philippines product Harmie Constantino as a teammate.

How long Saso will stay in college before entering the pro ranks remains to be seen. She wants to try a year, and go from there.

“I’m not sure if I’ll try and graduate or turn pro (after a bit of college),” Saso said. “I haven’t really decided yet, but I want to experience college golf.”

Even her start date at Georgia is not yet confirmed. Saso is hoping to finish school by the end of 2019 so that she could join the Bulldogs a semester early in the spring of 2020. If not, her Georgia career will start in the fall of 2020.

She seems ready for anything. Gwk

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