Yuka Saso: The 19-year-old winner who modeled her game on Rory McIlroy’s after watching it on YouTube



The answer is yes. The 19-year-old Filipina retains the trophy for a year before it was replaced by a replica after winning the US Women’s Open on Sunday, beating Japan’s Nasa Hataoka in a dramatic playoff of sudden death.

As she rolled in her 10-foot birdie for the momentous victory on the third hole of the playoffs, Saso became the first Filipina to win a major in both men’s and women’s golf.

When she was 13, Saso used to watch YouTube clips of Rory McIlroy winning her first major at the US Open in 2011. As it turns out, the time turned out well.

“Watching him made me feel like, ‘Oh, he’s a really cool guy, he has a really good swing,” she told CNN Sport’s Coy Wire. “So I was like, ‘Why don’t you try to copy it?’ And that’s where it all started. “

McIlroy plays his stroke from the 14th tee in the continuation of the first round of the Memorial Tournament.

Saso says she modeled her swing on the four-time major winner and the similarities in technique have been evident at the Olympic club over the past few days.

She is also mentioned by McIlroy on social media, which she describes as a “dream come true”.

On Saturday, McIlroy encouraged Saso to “get this trophy” in an Instagram post. After his victory on Sunday, he posted a congratulatory message on Twitter.

“Everyone is going to watch Yuka Saso’s swing videos on YouTube now. Congratulations! ” he wrote.

Saso says she looks forward to meeting the Northern Irishman if she gets the chance.

“I hope to meet him in person and say hello or get a signature or a photo or whatever,” she said.

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Saso celebrates with the Harton S. Semple Trophy after winning the 76th US Women's Open.

Coping with the conditions

At 19, 11 months and 17 days, Saso’s victory equaled the age record set by South Korean Park Inbee as the youngest champion in women’s football’s longest-standing major.

Saso received vehement support from fans throughout the week in San Francisco, as the nearby town of Daly is home to a large Filipino population.

She had to survive a late charge from Hataoka, who was looking to become the last major Japanese winner after Hideki Matsuyama’s triumph at the Masters earlier this year.

Hataoka started six strokes ahead, but three birdies in his last six holes set up the playoffs with Saso.

However, three pars in all three holes meant Saso’s winning birdie gave the 19-year-old her first major title.

In addition to the pressure of a playoff for a major title, Saso was not feeling well physically.

“I have a bit of a stomach ache entering the last holes,” she explained. “I don’t know why. I ate bananas after the second hole of the playoffs and I felt better.

“I was a little excited and a little under pressure. I was more worried about my stomach than anything else.”

The daughter of a Filipino mother and a Japanese father, Saso and her siblings traveled between the two countries growing up.

“When I was nine, I told my parents I wanted to play golf. And I had to go back to the Philippines with my dad. My dad comes and goes with my siblings. I think it is. ‘is the biggest sacrifice they’ve made. Now I just have to thank them. I wouldn’t be here without them. “

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Saso is doused with water after winning the 76th US Women's Open.

Playing for an audience

After turning pro in November 2019, Saso initially did not have the opportunity to perform in front of fans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

So, at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, being able to show off her abilities to a crowd of spectators and be able to sign autographs for children who were in a situation similar to her just a few years ago has been a “big one”. experience for her.

“There are a lot of kids like me and I’ve been through these things like getting signatures from Lexi (Thompson) and others,” Saso explained.

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Saso putts wide on the 18th hole in the fourth round of the 76th US Women's Open.

“There are so many great pros that I got signed that I would love to do what they do. It’s awesome.”

And having got his hands on this famous trophy, Saso can not help but look at it.

“This trophy looks good. I’ll take it home with me.”


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