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Midlife Halftime: The Yuka Saso Money Train

Yuka Saso is now a global star. 

This, after winning the US Women’s Open, one of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour’s five major championships. The US Women’s Open also happens to be the oldest among the Majors; and the tournament which offers the highest prize money for the winner.

By making history as the first golfer from the Philippines to cop a Major, Saso earned for herself a whopping $1,000,000.

It’s life-changing money, even if Saso does not want to admit it.

“‘Yung family ko po ‘yung una kong tinawagan, pero wala pa rin pong pinagbago,” she said.

“Ganun pa rin.”

It is hard to wrap one’s head around the thought of winning a million dollars from a four-day sports event. The idea becomes even more surreal when one considers that Saso is only 19 years old. She turns 20 on June 20.

Saso turned professional in November of 2019 in the money-rich Japan LPG. She would have featured in the circuit in 2020. However, the tournaments scheduled in the first half of the year were cancelled due to the pandemic.

Her pro debut in the Japan LPGA finally happened on June 25, 2020, when she joined the Earth Mondahmin Cup held in Chiba. She finished fifth.

Less than two months later, she made her breakthrough as a pro when she won her first championship, the NEC Kaurizawa 72, on August 16. Her first pro title also came with the winner’s paycheck worth ¥14,400,00 or the equivalent of P6.2 million.

In the next tournament — which was scheduled from August 27-30 — Saso made history as the first rookie to emerge champion in back-to-back JLPGA events. She won the Nitori Ladies Golf Tournament, pocketing the championship purse of ¥36,000,000 or P15.7 million.

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The latest update in the Japan LPGA Money Rankings (which records the winnings of golfers from a year ago until this year) lists Saso as fourth among the highest earners. Top on the leaderboard is Sakura Koiwai, who has earned ¥136 million in 28 events.

Saso has only played in 20 events in Japan, lower than the 2nd in the Money Rankings, who has played in 24 tournaments; and the third, who has seen action in 28 events.

In just a year of playing in Japan, Saso has already pocketed ¥97,721,942. To convert that to Philippine currency, that is around P42,783,663.

Saso has also earned from a few other LPGA events she has played in.

Last December, she joined the US Women’s Open and finished tied for 13th place, earning for herself $96,800 or roughly P4.6 million. In the 2021 Lotte Championship, Saso placed tied for sixth. She bagged $54,848 or around P2.6 million.

Saso also joined another major this year, the Ana Inspiration, where she finished tied for 50th spot and earned $10,081 or P481,317.

It is safe to assume that Saso is now one of the top-earning Filipino athletes, perhaps next only to boxing’s Manny Pacquiao whose purse in his August fight against Errol Spence is pegged at $5,000,000; and NBA 6th Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson who is earning $11,500,000 this season with the Utah Jazz.

In just a year as a professional golfer, Saso has become at least $2,000,000 richer. And this does not include how much she earns in endorsements.

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Her US Women’s Open title conquest also brings with a five-year membership in the LPGA. This gives Saso the opportunity to compete in the most prestigious tournaments in the world.

Saso could very well putt herself to bigger financial rewards even before she reaches her mid-20s.

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