By Jean Malanum

BETTER YEAR AHEAD. Filipino-Japanese Yuka Saso lifts the winner’s trophy at the US Women’s Open golf tournament in San Francisco, California on June 6, 2021. She looks forward to a better performance in 2024, including playing in all five majors and the Paris Olympics. (Photo courtesy of LPGA)

MANILA – Filipino-born Japanese golfer Yuka Saso is most thankful for staying healthy in 2023, which she described as “a pretty good year.”

Performance-wise, she had eight top 10 finishes in 22 tournaments in the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) Tour.

She tied for 23rd in the CME Group Tour Championship in November, her last tournament of the year, and finished 17th in the Race to CME Globe Season points competition.

“I think that’s the most important thing (to stay healthy),” the 22-year-old US Women’s Open champion representing the Philippines said in an interview on Sunday.

Her best finish this year was as runner-up in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Springfield, New Jersey in July, losing by one stroke to Chinese Ruoning Yin but taking home USD875,130 (around PHP48 million).

She is ninth on the official money list with winnings of USD1,822,486 (about PHP100 million).

“I just have to keep on practicing. What I’ve been doing since I was a kid, that won’t change…more practice and hard work. It’s a process – doing the same thing over and over again,” the world No. 27 Saso said.

Saso was born in San Ildefonso, Bulacan to a Filipino mother and a Japanese father.

In 2021, she bared she would renounce her Filipino citizenship as Japanese law states she must choose just one when she turns 22, which was on June 20 this year.

The Philippines is still close to her heart as she conducted a one-day clinic for upcoming golfers at The Country Club in Laguna on Dec. 27.

Saso will skip the first two LPGA events in January, but her 2024 goal is to play in all the majors – Chevron Championship, Women’s PGA Championship, US Women’s Open, The Evian Championship and The Women’s Open.

She is also setting her sights on the 2024 Paris Olympics despite the strong Japanese contingent by securing valuable points in ranking LPGA tournaments.

“There will be tournaments every week, so each week will be important to get to the Olympics,” Saso said. “I will focus on every tournament, stay in the moment and try not to look far ahead.”

As a member of the Philippine team, Saso bagged the women’s individual gold and was part of the winning women’s team in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

She also placed joint ninth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which was held a year later due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (PNA)