THE Philippines is recently making headlines in the sports world despite Manny Pacquiao’s sabbatical leave inside the boxing ring.
The reason being is Yuka Saso, a 19-year-old Filipino-Japanese who took the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) by storm.
Saso, who turned pro last year, placed the country into the sports limelight as a then-rookie wrapped up the 2020 US Women’s Open with an excellent T-13 finish.
A couple of days ago, Saso finished at tied sixth place at the LPGA Lotte Championship, which Kiwi-born Lydia Ko eventually won.
Despite a nonpodium finish at the Lotte Championship, Saso was on top of the leaderboard for two consecutive days and was lauded by former world number one and flight mate at the said tournament, Ko.
Besides Saso, another Filipina golfer is making noise in the golfing industry, Bianca Pagdanganan, also known for her long bombs, was dubbed as LPGA’s longest driver.
Truly, Filipina golfers represent the Philippines well in international and even major tournaments. But it leaves a big question: why are there no Filipino golfers in PGA majors?
The Manila Times asked Jaewon Kwak, KC Filipinas Golf Club Inc.’s resident golf instructor and LPGA No. 1 South Korean Jin Young Ko’s former coach, on her opinion on Filipina golfers’ emergence in the LPGA.
Coach Jaewon pointed out that Saso and Pagdanganan’s demeanor toward the sport makes them stand out among all the golfers in the country, including their male counterparts. “They (Saso and Pagdanganan) seem to enjoy playing golf quite a bit,” said Jaewon.
The Korean coach also emphasized the physical conditioning of the Filipina LPGA players as one of the critical factors in their career successes. “Their physical condition is very good,” Jaewon mentioned.
To support Jaewon’s point on the Filipina golfers’ outstanding physical condition, Saso alone has at least 32 JLPGA tournaments (sans LPGA majors should she qualify) to compete.
The South Korean mentor also added that apart from the right playing attitude, discipline in oneself is significant, especially in maintaining an exceptional physique and stamina on and off training.
According to Jaewon, the country can have Filipino golfers at the PGA major tournaments and it starts with the right mindset and training of junior players.
“I think it should be activated from the domestic tournaments. If good players cannot be found in the Philippines, international player discovery is not easy. You will have to work hard to find talented juniors and you will have to make players through systematic training from an early age. Great players aren’t made by accident. Everything is made by a systematic plan,” Jaewon stressed.
Jaewon’s opinion that success in golf starts at an early age makes sense where players in this stage haven’t developed any unhealthy habits, whether in playing or physically.
Saso is an excellent example, where at the age of 19, she is already ranked 43rd in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings and many golf experts believe that she hasn’t even reached her peak yet. Just imagine once she’s on her heyday, she could dominate the league for quite some time.