Filipino-Japanese Yuka Saso closed out with a four-under-par 68 on Monday, finishing tied for fifth in the rain-delayed Earth Mondahmin Cup won by hometown bet Ayaka Watanabe in sudden death over Ai Suzuki at Camellia Hills Country Club in Chiba, Japan.
It was an auspicious debut in the Japan LPGA for the long-hitting Saso, a 19-year-old who had to give up a good chunk of change in 2018 after winning two gold medals in the Asian Games in Jakarta just to maintain her amateur status.
And when the time came to play for money, she did so with aplomb, bankrolling more than P4 million with the fifth-place tie worth 8.6 million yen. She was also the only nonhomegrown bet to finish in the top five. Saso, who had a piece of the first-round lead after a 66 only to slow down with a second round 71, wound up with a nine-under-par 279 total.
Watanabe and Suzuki shot 68s to close regulation with 277s, with Watanabe winning in the first hole of the playoff. Finishing tied for third a stroke behind were Miki Sakai (69) and Mizuki Tanaka (73).
Saso turning pro at the start of the year generated some great expectations back home, especially after winning the individual gold and anchoring the team to the championship in the Asiad.
She had to turn down millions of pesos in incentives from the government after that.
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