After a fantastic finish at the historic inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA), the two shining stars of Asian golf – Japan’s Yuka Yasuda and Philippines’ Yuka Saso – will be the ones to watch when the second Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) championship is played at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki Prefecture from April 25-28.
The two Yukas finished tied third behind champion Jennifer Kupcho and runner-up Maria Fassi as women competed for the first time at Augusta National Golf Club, the host venue of the Masters Tournament, with a trophy on the line.
It will be a sort of homecoming for the 17-year-old Saso, who lived in Japan for four years and developed her keen interest in golf while there before moving back to the Philippines aged eight. Her mother and her four younger siblings still reside in Japan.
The reigning Asian Games double gold medallist – she won the individual title in Jakarta last year and helped the Philippines win the women’s team title – will be on a high not only because of her finish in ANWA. She also savoured an opportunity to meet Niall Horan, the golf-loving member of the popular band One Direction and a very close friend of Saso’s golfing idol, Rory McIlroy.
“Getting to play at Augusta National was just amazing. It was great fun,” said Saso, ranked 29th in the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking. “Finishing third wasn’t something I was thinking of while playing… I just wanted to see my name on the leaderboard once and I was happy to do that.”
“I met Niall during the final round and he had some nice things to say about my birdie on the 18th hole of Augusta National. He was very cool and we talked about Rory and my birdie.
“I know that he and Rory are very good friends and I just told him that I am a big fan of Rory’s.
“We spoke briefly and Niall told me that Rory obviously is a good player and hits it like a bomb but he’s a very nice guy. Hopefully, I will get to meet him soon.”
Yasuda, the highest-ranked Japanese player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking at number 13, admitted that she was aiming for a top ten finish at the ANWA and was delighted with her result.
The 18-year-old Kobe resident is high on confidence and said she would thoroughly enjoy the experience of playing in front of her home crowd.
“I thought I would be in the top ten if I could play well. I was happy to finish in third place at Augusta,” said Yasuda, winner of the 2018 Junior World Cup and the 2017 Japan Women’s Amateur.
“There are many Japanese players in the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific. They are rivals but more importantly they are all my friends. I think the pleasure of playing the tournament will be much bigger than the pressure.”
The field at the Royal Golf Club comprises 17 players ranked inside the top-100 of the WAGR. The champion will earn a spot in two of the five women’s majors – the AIG Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship. She will also receive an invite to the 2020 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship has been developed by The R&A and Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) to unearth emerging talent and provide a pathway for Asia’s elite women amateurs to emerge on the international stage.
The R&A launched the Women in Golf Charter last year and is committed to increasing the participation of women in the sport. The WAAP is one of several key championships conducted by the governing body and a significant initiative along with the APGC to drive the popularity of women’s golf in the region.
Kabaya Ohayo Group and Rolex are the championship’s Official Scoring Partners and Evian are Official Water Supplier. IMG assists with championship staging and TV broadcasting.
For more information on the championship, visit the website at randa.org/WAAP. For updates, like the championship’s Facebook page and follow @WAAPGolf on Twitter and Instagram.
Entry to the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship is free of charge.