Jakarta—On the eve of National Heroes Day, three Filipina golfers joined the ranks of modern-day heroes as they delivered two gold medals during the 2018 Asian Games at the Pondok Indah Golf and Country Club course here on Sunday.
The outlook appeared bleak entering the game’s final round as Yuka Saso was three shots down the pacesetter, with the team nine strokes off tournament-leading China.
But Saso climbed the steep ladder, and with the gold on the line, sank a pressure-laden eagle putt from 10 feet on the par-5 19th, snuffing out the hopes of erstwhile Chinese leader Liu Wenbo, who collapsed with a quadruple bogey on the same hole in a dramatic conclusion at the par-72, 6,252-yard layout.
With identical 3-under 33s on the front on back, Saso capped her golden Asian Games’ debut with a four-round tally of 275, three shots better than Liu, who slumped to a 73 and settled for the silver with a 278 aggregate.
“I just never lost faith in myself and I never doubted this team right from the beginning,” said the 17-year-old Saso. “We are all fighters and we really fought hard out there for the country.”
As icing on the Philippine cake, Bianca Panganiban came charging home with a similar 6-under 66 to snatch away the individual bronze medal with a combined 72-hole score of 279.
With the sterling final-round performances of Saso and Panganiban, the Philippine team, which included Louis Kaye Go, rallied to lift the team championship trophy with a four-round output of 554, relegating South Korea to silver (557) and China to bronze (558).
“I feel very happy. I really don’t know what to say,” said Saso of her memorable maiden appearance in the games featuring Asia’s best athletes. “Sobrang saya at ganda ang experience ko this week.”
The impressive achievement also ended a 32-year-old gold-medal drought in the sport since former amateur standout Ramon Brobio won the individual men’s title in the 1986 Seoul Asian Games. The country’s last medal of any color in the games came in the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad, courtesy of Miguel Tabuena’s silver.
The Philippine golf’s haul catapulted the country’s standing in the medal table from 23rd to 15th with a gold-silver-bronze tally of 3-0-10, ahead of Southeast Asian rivals Malaysia (17th), Singapore (18th) and Vietnam (22nd), but behind Thailand at seventh.
The golfers’ two golds to go with Hidilyn Diaz’s weightlifting mint has already tripled the 2014 Incheon Asian Games’ finish of a lone gold.
Saso stands to receive a cash windfall of P8 million—P2 million from the Philippine Olympic Committee, P2 million from the government through Republic Act 10699, P1 million each from the Siklab Foundation and the Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Lee Hoong, and her P2 million share from the combined P6 million accorded a gold medalist.
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